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Monday, May 29, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

To see or not to see?
Jan Stetter

Controversial? Hardly.

A thriller? Too much expository dialogue.

Shocking? That depends on how evolved and open minded to possibilities--fictitious or otherwise--one is.

Entertaining? You bet!

The Da Vinci Code is a movie based on the novel of the same name by author Dan Brown. Actors Tom Hanks and Ian McKellen are the code breakers of this mystery. Audrey Tautou as Hank’s accomplice and Paul Bettany as an ominous presence are the pawns in this movie that at times, plays out like a sophisticated game of CLUE.

Hanks plays Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor who is an authority on the science of symbiology. Hank’s talent in portraying a fictitious scientific academe as credible is a testament to Hanks’ ability as a first rate actor. Audrey Tautou, playing criminologist Sophie Neveu gives a straightforward performance that is instrumental in discovering the controversy at the root of this story. The relationship between Robert and Sophie lacked the chemistry intimated in the book.

Ian McKellen as Sir Leigh Teabing brings life to his character’s job of dispensing the necessary facts associated to a conspiracy. Once McKellen’s presence lights up the screen, the plot and action moves quickly and gives momentum to the chase. Sir Leigh Teabing has dedicated his resources as an aristocratic historian to uncover the truth behind the Sacred Feminine and the Holy Grail. His obsession and wealth knows no bounds. The ultimate goal is in seeking the truth at any cost.

Casting Paul Bettany as the haunting, tortured soul used as the muscle to do the “dirty work” of the real life organization Opus Dei was a winning choice. He plays a devoted servant unconditionally committed to the loyalty and instructions of Bishop Aringarosa played by Alfred Molina. Bettany plays one unforgiving albino madman.

Director Ron Howard is as trustworthy and forthcoming as Opie Taylor, the son of a small town sheriff character he once played as a boy. Just as Opie seeks truth amongst conflict, so does Ron Howard in the way he directed this movie. For the most part, Howard’s direction follows the novel in its entirety. It is not necessary to have read the novel to understand the movie.

The Da Vinci Code is the topic of numerous conversations. It has been debated, defended, and debunked. What the movie may lack in authenticity is really beside the point. For all of the religious naysayers’ fervor to boycott this movie, their efforts only serve to ignite more curiosity as evidenced in movie ticket sales. And in their zeal they fail to recognize a valuable fact—The DaVinci Code is a movie based on a fictitious book.

Get over it. And while you’re at it, get over to this movie. It’s worth seeing.

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact: jans@queencityforum.com

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Council Support Private Fire Fighters at 'Taste'...Sort Of

City Council approves but voices concern
by Jennifer Greenup

City Hall--Cincinnati Fire Fighters spoke out at Cincinnati City Councils Monday Finance Committee meeting about the use of private EMS services at this year's Taste of Cincinnati. Robert Mengler, vice president of the local 48 Fire Fighters Union asked the City to rethink the use of private EMS services for the event.

“I don’t think that it is in the best interest of our residents,” said Mengler. “On a daily bases, we make runs to shootings and other situations that quite frankly the private EMS is not prepared for.”

Yet today Cincinnati City Council passed a motion to reimburse the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce $3000 for the employment of private EMS services during this weekend’s event.
Councilman Jeff Berding said that he recognized that the motion did not please everyone but that the policy is similar to previous policies.

“It provides limited support without limiting the administrations ability to provide that support,” said Berding. “If we believe that the Taste is a signature event then we need to support it.”

Councilman Cecil Thomas said at Monday’s meeting that he was concerned about the use of private EMS services.

“I’m very uncomfortable with this,” said Thomas. “Are we still getting the same quality of services when we go from $10,000 to $3,000 for Services?”

Thomas, however, voted in favor of the motion. “The time factor is a problem,” said Thomas. “I look at that and say that we need to go ahead and support this now. $3,000 is not a lot of money when we are making $35 million.”

Councilman David Crowley said he is concerned that visitors at the event will not be receiving the quality of EMS services that they have enjoyed in the past.

“We are not just talking about cost,” said Crowley. “We are talking about quality. We don’t know what they will provide.”

“The city is going to help provide support for events like the Taste of Cincinnati,” said Councilman John Cranley at Monday’s meeting. However he voted to reimburse the Chamber the funds saying, “I would prefer that our fire fighters would be used.”

Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz also voted for the motion but said that she would be making some calls this afternoon to urge the Chamber to use Cincinnati EMS.

“I am strongly urging that Cincinnati fire fighters be used,” said Ghiz. “If the city is giving funding to an event, we have to use our fire fighters and police.”

In 1999 Michael Cowperthwaite, who blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit, drove his car though a barricade and injured 23 people of Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati fire fighters and Cincinnati police were critical in providing support to the victims at this event.

Councilman Chris Monzel said, “There are a lot of great events that take place in our city.” And we need a plan in place to address this problem in the future.
Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics.
The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QCFMag.com.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

City, County Still Unsure About Veterans Memorial

Council says Banks team will have to decide on project

by Jennifer Greenup
QCFMag.com reporter

City Hall--Tri-state veterans will not see a veteran’s memorial built any time soon.

Councilman Chris Bortz said today that the Veterans Memorial Park is in limbo right now.

“It’s something the Banks working group will have to work on,” said Bortz. He then said he did not know enough about the project and its cost to say whether or not he supports the Project. "It’s up to the group to decide.”

Councilman Chris Monzel said that he supported the project but that “there are bigger issues that need to be addressed first. There the matter of location and there is always the question of money.”

For the past 10 years, Ronald Ferrier, founder of the Greater Cincinnati Veterans Memorial Project, has tried unsuccessfully to establish a Veterans Memorial in Cincinnati, the only major mid-western city that does not have a veteran’s memorial to honor those who have served in the armed services.

Earlier this month Ferrier presented Cincinnati City Council with a proposal to build a Veterans Memorial Park on land located behind the Freedom Center in the Banks development, a substitute location to the Fort Washington Way decks area approved in 2000. In 2000, Cincinnati City Council passed a resolution in support of a Veterans Memorial Park on the riverfront.

Councilman Cecil Thomas supports the idea of a veteran’s memorial park next to the Freedom Center.

“I think it is an excellent idea,” said Thomas. “It would hopefully bring people down town and to the Freedom Center.”

However, the ownership and control of the property in question, which is designated a green zone, is not known.

Bortz said that he believes that the Park Board is responsible for maintaining the land but he did not know who owned it.

Ferrier said that the County owns the land but the Freedom Center many have exclusive use of the plot.

The Freedom Center and a Veterans Memorial is a good match,” said Ferrier. “We both share the same mission and values of freedom and could share the land.”

Moreover, the Freedom Center told Ferrier that they do not have the money to develop the land, something that his organization can help with.

“I strongly believe that there is enough regional interest in this project that the money will show up,” said Ferrier.
The purposed memorial park will have an ample theater and children’s section that the Freedom Center would have full use of. The memorial park will also have a memorial plaza with flags to represent the different branches of the armed services and inscribed paver’s walkways of those from the region who have served in the military.

More than 800,000 individuals from the tri-state region have served in the armed services since World War I. The memorial is meant to honor all those who have served in the armed forces, not just those who have been killed during a war.

“We take the service and sacrifice of veterans too much for granted,” said Ferrier. “Veterans spend at least two years away from their family. This is a level of sacrifice that at the very least deserves to be recognized.”
Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics.
The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QCFMag.com.

Monday, May 15, 2006

United 93: To See or Not to See

Not for the faint at heart

by Jan Stetter
QueenCityForum.com Mag movies

Many have questioned the timing and purpose of recreating the story of the most horrible catastrophe to occur on American soil.

This film may have all the accruals that accompany a Hollywood production; yet rest assured its purpose is not to capitalize on the devastation of the events of September 11th.

Director, Paul Greengrass, best known for his documentaries, uses his talent to give this movie a feel of authenticity. The camera shots and angles of the passengers’ perspective in the plane, to the people on the ground doing their best to ascertain and coordinate efforts to divert a fourth plane attack, are inherent to the fast pace action.

From the opening scenes of the airport and the pilots, to the people at ground control, the movie presents the routines of a seemingly ordinary day. Greengrass conveys the sense that the people we are watching are just like us. They look like the vast majority of Americans. Real life scenarios occur: Passengers entering the plane look to be cordial, some indifferent; all with the confidence that this flight will get them safely to their destination.

Several people play themselves in this movie, most notably Ben Sliney, who was the actual national operational manager for the FAA on the day of the flight.

Other synchronizations add to the veritable sense of this film. Most enthralling was the conflict of efforts to establish coordinated communications between several air traffic controllers’ sites and the military. Astutely portrayed was the frustration of the military dealing with unclear and untimely succession of power and authority in acting upon the attacks. Their effort to maintain a collected calm during a crisis adds intensity.

United 93 is a powerful movie. In this movie we see the worst about our humanity and the best of it.

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact: jans@queencityforum.com

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Liability Forces New Rules to Change Private Police

Issue of Liability at Stake, Police Say

by Jennifer Greenup
QueenCityForum.com Magazine

Cincinnati Private Police Association could still face legal changes in the way they do business in Cincinnati. Cincinnati Police Department’s Asst. Chief Vince Demasi said Friday that CPD has not dropped the rule changes that will stop private security companies from using the word “police” on their uniforms, badges, vehicles, letterheads and advertisements.

The new rule changes are intended to bring Cincinnati’s laws in line with Ohio laws in order to protect the City for lawsuits said Demasi.

“It’s a liability issue,” said Demasi. “It could open the City up to litigation. The citizen’s safety is our primary goal.” However, Demasi said that there may be exceptions made for companies who are already provide such in Cincinnati.

“We are looking at grandfathering these guys in,” said Demasi. “It’s still in the discussion stage
at this point.”

Asst. Chief David Boehm of Queen City Private Police said that according to the current rules each private police officer must have at least $1 million in liability insurance.

Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee’s will address this issue again at its May 23 meeting.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Private Police Fight for Name and Safety Measures

City Rule Change Overted at the Last Minute

By Jennifer Greenup
QueenCityForum.com Magazine

City Hall--Members of the Cincinnati Private Police Association (CPPA) made an unexpected appearance before Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee Tuesday asking the Committee members to stop new rule changes they say will drastically affect them.

The new rules would force CPPA to remove the word police from their uniforms, badges, vehicles, letterheads and advertisements, which the CPPA contends will put their member’s lives in danger.

The approximately twenty members of the organization also raised the issue of losing radio communications with the Cincinnati Police Department in 2005 when the City replaced their old radio system.

“One of my primary obligations to my employees is to protect them,” said David Kevorkian, from Cincinnati Metro Private Police. “There is no way to protect them out there on the street if they can’t represent themselves as police officers because they do perform a police function.”

CPPA has the same authority as Cincinnati police officers; they can issue citations, make arrests and carry a gun. They have provided private police services in Cincinnati since 1914 to organizations like Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Music Hall.

Cincinnati Music Hall’s director of operations, Scott Santangelo, and president of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Steven Monder also addressed the Committee in support of CPPA.

“We retain private police as a means of safeguarding the patrons who attend events at Music Hall,” said Santangelo. “The private police association is a valuable edge on the security net the City provides particularly in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.”

Mr. Santangelo went on to say that the lack of radio communication with the CPD has made CPPAs job far more difficult and the timing of the rule change was bad and would threaten the security of his patrons.

He encouraged the City to continue to support this relationship that has lasted for decades.

“In Over-the-Rhine, where Music Hall is located, we really need that presence,” said Santangelo.

Mr. Monder said that CPPA is a deterrent to those who would threaten people’s safety and that they are doing a good job.

“We are very much invested in Over-the-Rhine,” said Monder. “The safety of our patrons and employees is paramount” and the loss of CPPA would threaten the 150 employees and the over 200,000 patrons that visit Music Hall each year.

Asst. Chief David Boehm of Queen City Private Police said that not having radio communication with CPD was placing his life in danger.

“Several times I have called communications and was put on hold,” said Boehm. “Radio communications is a vital lifeline for us.”

The majority of CPPAs clients today are in Over-the-Rhine and the Price Hill area said Lt. Col. Joe Florimonte who was commissioned and has worked for Cincinnati Private Police since 1964.

Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell wanted to pass a motion against the rule changes but Committee Chair Cecil Thomas wanted to wait until the city could submit a report on the rule changes.

However, by Wednesday afternoon, Chief Wendell Davenport of Queen City Private Police said that CPD had removed the new rules and offered to allow CPPA members to purchase radios so that they can communicate with Cincinnati police.

“I think Vice Mayor Tarbell’s reaction had a lot to do with it,” said Davenport in a phone interview. “We think that some calls were made.”

The Vice Mayor said today that he knows nothing about the CPD withdrawing the new rule changes or about CPPA members gaining access to radios.

CPD Asst. Chief Vince Demasi who was present at Tuesday’s committee meeting was unavailable this afternoon for comment.

This is not the first time CPPA has faced threats to their business.

According to a 2002 Cincinnati Enquirer report CPD Chief Thomas Streicher and the City Manager sought to end the commissioning of private police after the U.S. Department of Labor ruled that the city could not require private police officers to volunteer 16 hours of work time a year.

Under Ohio law, private police officers are not recognized and the CPPAs continued existence is dependent on the city’s support.
CPPA members are required to receive 120 hours of police training before they are commissioned by Cincinnati Police and must obtain an addition eight hours of training each year.

Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics. The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QueenCityForum.com Magazine.contact: jenniferg@queencityforum.com

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Sentinel: To See or Not to See

Do you long for a glimpse of Camelot?

by Jan Stetter
QueenCityForum.com Magazine

You know the king, his faithful friend, his beautiful wife… but let’s update this scenario, longing for the memory of the Kennedy Dynasty where Jackie O effused elegance just by standing in a public place.

Interested? The Sentinel is a movie that just may grant your wishes of clandestine affairs, faithful sentry and betrayal; all happening in today’s White House.

Michael Douglas produced and stars in this film playing a Secret Service agent dedicated to protecting the lives of the President and his wife. Along the way there is the new kid on the block played by Eva Longoria. Her suave manner and fulsome physique makes for wonderful eye candy, yet undermines the gritty reality of being part of a highly sophisticated, no nonsense, do or die, portrayal of the Secret Service.

Just as Camelot’s leading lady had an ill-fated relationship in that story, The Sentinel’s Kim Bassinger has an illicit relationship with one of her guards. A threat to the President’s life and a betrayal by one of the President’s own are all par for the course.

The obligatory chase scenes, false accusations, escape to prove one’s innocence and to sniff out the real traitor is all done in a day’s work. Which brings me to another lead character from The Sentinel—Keifer Sutherland. Although his polished look and composed performance work in this movie; it’s hard not hoping for his TV series character, Jack Bauer of 24, to spring into action.

Kudos goes to Kim Bassinger for her stunning performance as the first lady. She brings to life a sophistication once possessed by our own Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy when Camelot existed for a brief time in the real White House.

If you are a TV fan of Michael Douglas (in his early career he played a detective on The Streets of San Francisco) and Keifer Sutherland of 24 fame and Desperate Housewives’ Eva Longoria then this movie is for you. It has the feel of a TV movie, the cost of a blockbuster movie and the charisma that falls somewhere in between.

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact: jans@queencityforum.com

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mayor Mallory Boasts Initiative's Initial Success

Police Credit Change to Hands-On Approach

By Jennifer Greenup
QueenCityForum.com Magazine staff

City Hall--Mayor Mark Mallory announced last Tuesday that Cincinnati’s new Public Safety Initiatives are showing results. He cited the Cincinnati Police Department’s having taken more than 500 weapons off the streets since January and arrested more than 900 people in Over-the-Rhine since the city’s new taskforce was implemented.

“This represents what the Cincinnati Police Department is up against,” said Mallory pointing to a table filled with several types of handguns and rifles. “Good police work is what has led to these types of weapons being taken off the streets.”

Assistant Police Chief, Lt. Col. James L. Whalen said that the city’s new initiatives and changes in the department’s “policing style” has enabled police to better deal with the issues facing the city.

Whalen said that the new rules allowing police to “put people in handcuffs and take them to jail” is having a huge affect on the taskforces success in Over-the-Rhine.

“We are not going to solve all the issues of crime right away,” said Mallory. “As we find it necessary to put new initiatives in place, we will do that.”

Lt. Stephen Kramer of special investigations says the department has investigated fire arms trafficking in Cincinnati since 2004. There were four such investigations in January and February alone, resulting in 146 individuals arrested for gun possession and more than 500 guns taken off the streets so far in 2006.

In 2005 there were 14 investigations into drug trafficking, 550 people arrested, and 1562 guns taken off the street, Lt. Kramer said.

Whalen said the department will try to take this process to other troubled areas in the city now that it has been successful in Over-the-Rhine.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Beginning To Banks Solution?

City and County Optimistic About Privately Led Decision Making Group

By Jennifer Greenup
QueenCityForum.com Magazine

City Hall--Mayor Mark Mallory and Commissioner Phil Heimlich held a joint press conference today to announce an agreement between the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over the development of the Riverfront.

“I have been saying for months that the Banks Project is one of the most important in the city,” said Mallory.

The City and County’s struggled over control of the project will now be mediated through a working group. The group will choose a master developer for the project, develop the project’s policies, and will make recommendations to the City and County about the development of the Banks.

“We have delegated responsibility to the Working Group to select a Developer,” Commissioner Heimlich said. “It was give and take on both sides that shifted decisions into a working group.”

However, not every member of the Council is comfortable with this arrangement. Councilman David Crowley said that there were two aspects of the resolution he was concerned with.

“I want to point out that by our actions, we have given three-fifths of the decision making power to private individuals,” said Crowley.

He also wanted also wanted to make sure that the public has input into the development.

“The people of Cincinnati need to feel they have a say,” said Crowley.

Mallory said he wanted to make it clear, all decisions on the Banks project will come back to the Council and the County Commissioners for public hearings and approval.

“Everything they recommend to us will have to be discussed in this public forum,” said Mallory.
“There is a process and place and we have to follow it. If they make a recommendation this body doesn’t agree with, we will vote against it.”

Councilman Jeff Berding, who played a role in the agreement, said the Banks project is critical to the future of the City.

“We have to get it right,” said Berding. “And this resolution helps us get it right. The City was holding firm, making sure we got to this point today.”

Councilman John Cranley was for the resolution but also agreed with Crowley that the community must feel that they are part of the process and gain jobs and skills from the development.

Councilwomen Laketa Cole said that this project will help create jobs for the city’s residents.
“This project will turn this City around,” said Cole. “I will continue to make sure that the citizens get their fair share of the jobs.”

The five-member “Banks Working Group” will be headed by Cincinnati Reds owner, Robert Castellini, who was critical in the development of this agreement.

Both the City and the County will pick one of the five members; Cincinnati Center Development Corporation (3CDC) will appoint one member and Castellini will pick the other.

Mallory and Heimlich have been working on an arrangement both governments could agree with for the past five month. “This process has gone on for a long time,” said Mallory. “And a couple of members of city council [Berding and Bortz] got us where we are today.

Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics. The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QueenCityForum.com Magazine.contact: jenniferg@queencityforum.com

County, City Agree on Banks Working Group

A five person working group has been chosen to pick the developer and settle issues regarding Banks project.

It is an agreement that will allow the respective parties to deal with the issues that have held up the Banks project. Both sides are shifting decisions to the working group.

Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich and Mayor Mallory will each pick a member of the working group. The other members will be chosen by the Cincinnati Center City Development corporation (3CDC), and Robert Castellini.

Councilmen Jeff Berding and Chris Bortz were both credited with working hard on the resolution.

More in Thursday's City Hall Report with Jennifer Greenup

Thank You For Smoking: To See Or Not To See

Movie Gets Off Soapbox, Entertains

By Jan Stetter
QueenCityForum.com Magazine

It would be unpatriotic for anyone who sees the movie Thank You For Smoking to vote for smoke-free restaurants, smoke-free bars, even smoke-free maternity wards in hospitals. At least that is what Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Nick Naylor, the lead character in Thank You For Smoking, would have you believe.

Eckhart plays the affable fast-talking all-American, Nick Naylor with a savvy wit. By day, Nick represents the tobacco industry and holds the title of Vice President of the Academy of Tobacco Studies, (whose purpose is to provide endless statistics that Nick can use in his job as a lobbyist). In his other waking hours, he is the father of a questioning 12-year old son, played aptly by Cameron Bright.

Bright plays his character deftly as a young adolescent trying to figure out what his dad does for a living, if what he does is honorable and, most importantly, he absolutely does not want his father to embarrass him when he comes to speak to his classmates on Career Day.

Thank You For Smoking is a satirical movie that could reflect the current state of affairs in the American political system today. We have all heard of the shady lines of justice many lobbyists cross. Yet this movie does not point fingers or tell a humorous cautionary tale. This movie actually entertains us. It is smart, intelligent and just irreverent enough to make us all want to be friends with the smooth talking Nick Naylor and his fellow lobbyists who meet weekly for lunch.

Nick’s lunch mates, otherwise known as The MOD Squad (Merchants of Death) are deliciously played by Maria Bello and David Koechner. The beautiful Bello plays against type as the righteous voice for the alcohol industry. David Koechner, best known as a comic actor, representing the firearms industry, gives his best performance yet—simply by playing it straight. Meeting these characters and watching their take on the gullibility of the American population is worth the cost of the ticket.

Beyond the smart acting, the ingenious dialogue and the fast talking characters, there is even more to love about this movie. Details such as a poster in the background with a famous American icon pointing and saying America: The Best Government Money Can Buy! and the shot of Nick’s son’s school, St. Euthanasia, are all part of the fun.

Jason Reitman directed this movie and wrote the screenplay. Reitman did a credible job of adapting Christopher Buckley’s novel of the same name into a screenplay.

Be looking to see more of Aaron Eckart in future movies as he nails this part convincingly. His star will be catapulted into more blockbusters. Unless, of course, cigarettes get him first.

Having trouble making decisions about weather a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday.