Archive for the ‘War’ Category

G.I. Jane

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

tn_gijaneGI JANE is way classier than its male counterparts RISE OF COBRA, RETALIATION and THE MOVIE, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much of a straight-ahead action movie it is, complete with triumphant music by Trevor Jones (CLIFFHANGER), themes of fight brotherhood and many a badass training montage. It’s built around the idea of Demi Moore having to achieve a level of physical toughness never officially reached by a woman before, which is a little far-fetched, I know. But the actress acquits herself admirably, obviously trained intensely and shows off in many sweaty pull-up and one-armed pushup scenes like an ’80s Dolph, Stallone or Van Damme movie might have. I think maybe Ridley Scott was on a mission to one-up what James Cameron did with Linda Hamilton in T2. To get him back for ALIENS.

It’s also an issue movie, inspired by the debate of whether or not to allow women in combat in the U.S. military. Moore plays Jordan O’Neill, a lieutenant in military intelligence who knows her shit far beyond expectations. If she were a man she probly would’ve moved to some sort of special ops team where she could take advantage of her expertise, but women aren’t allowed there.

Until now. When a female senator (Anne Bancroft) cleverly throws her weight around at a confirmation hearing and gets the military to agree to a number of women-in-combat test cases, O’Neill is chosen as a good poster girl – skilled, but not too butch. So she gets to try out for the Navy SEALs. This was before they were known for killing Osama bin Laden, this is when they were known as Jesse Ventura’s buddies. But they were among the toughest of the tough. They bring in the very best special ops soldiers and even most of those guys drop out before Hell Week is over. So it’s a hell of a challenge for her. It’s a grueling test of strength and endurance that only a small percentage of men can hope to survive, not believed possible for a woman. And that’s not even figuring in the likelihood that nobody there wants a woman to be able to do it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fury

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

tn_furyFURY is an intense, well-made WWII movie. It doesn’t feel like just another forgettable same ol’ same ol’ type of war picture. For one thing, the focus on the crew of one tank makes for some unique and thrilling combat scenes. One battle scene in particular really shows the strategy of tank on tank action. They’re like pirate ship battles waged from inside vans. Or like giant turtles trying to outmaneuver each other. Not all battles are just about who has the most guns. And filming inside real tanks really adds to the realistic feel I think. It’s pretty damn cool.

Also it’s a more violent movie than most, or at least more effectively violent. Always good to hear somebody in the back of the theater loudly gasp right at the beginning of a movie. I guess somebody thought this was gonna be about nice, polite combat.

But I think FURY is signifying something too, and I’m still processing what I think about that. Writer/director David Ayer last did the really enjoyable Schwarzenegger movie SABOTAGE, which was a more fun and pulpy version of his usual topic, the Burnt Out Cops That Cross the Line (END OF WATCH, HARSH TIMES, STREET KINGS, TRAINING DAY). And this is kinda like the soldier version of that.

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The Last Samurai

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

tn_lastsamuraiBack in 2003, when THE LAST SAMURAI was new, I had a cynical, kneejerk reaction to it. “Yeah, right… Tom Cruise is the last samurai? Who’s next, someone from the brand new TV show this year America’s Top Model?” I was offended that they wouldn’t make a movie just about samurai, it had to be about the white guy that meets the samurai.

Some things I wasn’t taking into account at that time:

I. The DANCES WITH WOLVES type story of a westerner taken in by an enemy tribe of some kind and learning their ways is a longstanding tradition, and it’s a cool idea to do one with samurai instead of Native Americans. In fact it was partly inspired by real stories of a French soldier who did something like that.

II. There are hundreds of great samurai movies made in Japan, and director Edward Zwick of COURAGE UNDER FIRE was not about to beat them at their own game. It’s simply more interesting if he does his own thing here than if he just tries to imitate Japanese samurai movies. Come on.

III. What the fuck are you talking about here 2003 Vern, you LOVE the white ninja tradition of movies – ENTER THE NINJA, NINJA, AMERICAN NINJA, Steven Seagal… how could there not be value in seeing the big expensive studio from-the-director-of-GLORY version of that?
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Eye of the Eagle II: Inside the Enemy

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

tn_eyeoftheeagle2From ONE FALSE MOVE and DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, Carl Franklin seems like a pretty serious, respectable type director even though he’s working in the mystery genre. So what the hell was he doing in 1989 directing EYE OF THE EAGLE II: INSIDE THE ENEMY, a sequel to a Cirio H. Santiago Vietnam shootemup? Well, he was trying to do what a pretty serious, respectable type director would do with something like that.

Like most of the other black directors I’ve been writing about lately Franklin started out as an actor. He was in FIVE ON THE BLACK HAND SIDE and an episode of The Streets of San Francisco and shit like that. His first feature as a director was NOWHERE TO RUN (also from ’89), a drama that stars Jason Priestley but also has Sonny Carl Davis from THE WHOLE SHOOTIN’ MATCH in it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Eastern Condors

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

There’s alot of big movie anniversaries this summer. Everybody’s celebrating 30 years since the Summer of ’82 shit like E.T., THE THING, BLADE RUNNER, CONAN THE BARBARIAN. And I’ve been trying to commemorate the important summer of ’87 ones like PREDATOR and ROBOCOP. Little did I know that there was another movie, originally released July 9th, 1987, worthy of that kind of respect, but that I never saw before.

Geez, man. What have I been doing these last 25 years that was so god damn important I couldn’t be bothered to watch EASTERN CONDORS? Nothin, that’s what. Why did nobody convince me to watch this one before? This is my new favorite movie until further notice. The only legitimate reason to not watch it is if you’re worried that it will be hard to find another action movie to watch after that, because not many hold up to the EASTERN CONDORS standard of fun. (read the rest of this shit…)

Red Tails

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

tn_redtailsI’m starting to feel like a pushover, ’cause I’m enjoying all these poorly reviewed movies. RED TAILS is a simple pleasure – a straightforward, old-fashioned tribute to the camaraderie between the pilots and crew members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American Air Force squadron. It centers on the friendship between straight-laced, mustache-having but sometimes flask-swigging Easy (Nate Parker) and reckless, authority-bucking wannabe-ace Lightning (David Oyelowo). Easy (unlike his grandson Easy E) always wants to be professional and follow protocol, Lightning likes to disobey orders to go play chicken with a German ammunitaion train or carelessly dive on a battleship with no backup.
(read the rest of this shit…)

War Horse

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

tn_warhorsespielbergSteven Spielberg’s WAR HORSE is the story of a horse named Joey. He is distinguishable because he is brown with a white mark on his head and above his hooves. Otherwise I’m not sure I could pick him out in a lineup. He’s just a horse. Doesn’t talk or do math problems or anything.

The story begins with Joey’s birth and ends with his ascension to the stars like E.T. (note: some facts have been altered) and in between he goes through a harrowing journey in turnip farming, WWI, etc. His primary equine-human relationship is with a youth named Albert (Jeremy Irvine), who is there at his birth and later becomes his owner and trainer. Despite going way beyond anyone’s expectations in his indentured servitude, the purchase of non-plow-ready pretty boy Joey financially ruins the family, their lives are destroyed and they have to sell him for cheap to the army for even more cruel and unusual treatment by different noble, handsome Englishmen. (read the rest of this shit…)

Saving Private Ryan

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

tn_sprspielbergNo joke, I never saw SAVING PRIVATE RYAN before. I’ve never been big on war movies and I think back when it was a recent movie I was real cynical and suspicious of any type of flagwaving. I thought movies like this were just brainwashing kids to join up in case they needed to blow up Iraq again.

But that’s stupid. This one’s about “the good war” and still makes it look like something to avoid at all costs. The famous Omaha Beach invasion sequence near the beginning is a total bloodbath, soldiers pouring off the boats into waves of machine gun bullets. They might as well just be jumping from a diving board directly into a giant fan, it seems like. (read the rest of this shit…)

Empire of the Sun

Monday, January 16th, 2012

tn_empireofthesunspielberg“Excuse me everyone – I surrender!”

Wow – for some reason I never had any interest in EMPIRE OF THE SUN before. Turns out it’s great and sort of a beginning for alot of things. It’s Spielberg’s first WWII drama. One of Christian Bale’s first movies. The one that gave Ben Stiller the idea for TROPIC THUNDER. etc. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lawrence of Arabia

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

tn_lawrenceofarabiaHave you guys heard of this one? Pretty good. Newcomer Peter O’Toole plays T.E. Lawrence, or just “Awrence” to his friends, a goofball English soldier stationed in Cairo on Doing Jack Shit duty during WWI. He annoys his superior officers with his Jar Jar style clumsiness and just plain oddness (“it looks insubordinate but it isn’t, really,” is how he explains his sloppy salute). So they send him with a guide out to the desert “to appreciate the situation.” And he really does appreciate it. Throughout the course of this nearly 4-hour epic the strength of his personality brings him from nobody grunt sent out on a G14 classified in the desert to unlikely leader of a massive Arab revolt against the Turks. (read the rest of this shit…)