January 10, 2014, - 4:32 pm
One terrific and two okay movies (plus one piece of annoying garbage) new at the movies, this weekend:
* “Lone Survivor“: This is tied for my best movie of 2013 (see my complete list of best movies of 2013 and 2012). If you want to see patriotism along with the essence of what makes America great AND what makes America weak, this is it. Whether a proud American for a strong national defense or an anti-war ninny, every American needs to see this movie. It’s a great encapsulation of what those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces risk and ultimately sacrifice. More important, it’s a fantastic portrayal of what happens when our brave men are hamstrung by one-sided Geneva Accords and useless “human rights” rules that will eventually–as in this movie–get them killed. Rules that only they obey. And it shows how the fear of courts martial and negative coverage on CNN (the network is specifically called out by name) cause soldiers to take actions that will only save Islamic terrorists and take more American lives.
As you probably know by now, this is the movie based on the true life story of Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor among several Navy SEALs, sent to hunt down Taliban terrorist leader, Mohammad Ismail alias Ahmad Shah, in the mountains of Afghanistan. The SEALs saw their target but didn’t have the kind of guns with the range to take him out (that was the part I did not get, and it is not explained in the movie). While they were in hiding in the mountains, Afghan shepherds sympathetic to the Taliban happened to take their herd there for grazing and found the SEALs. The SEALs had three choices: kill the shepherds (which is what they should have done but could not given the rules hamstringing them and their fears about courts martial and negative media coverage); tie the shepherds to trees and let them be eaten by animals and die, or set them free. Incredibly, they felt the only choice–because of the media and military trial consequences–was to set them free. Stupid. NOT how you win a war. It’s how you risk American lives.
And as the title of this movie indicates, there is only one survivor among those who went on that mission, known as “Operation Red Wings.” As is predictable, the Taliban come to the mountain, surround the SEALs and outgun them, killing all but Luttrell (played by Mark Wahlberg). But while they fight it out, there are other questions: why did the radio/satellite equipment not work? They were mostly unable to communicate with the SEALs commander back at the base. Also, how did it happen that one or two whole military helicopters filled with SEALs that came to rescue them were shot down with SAMs so easily. Who gave their plans and positions away to the Muslims?
The end of the movie is touching. First, we are shown the one rare Muslim willing to risk his life and those of his family members to save Luttrell. Remember, this guy is the exception to the rule. More stirring (it brought tears to my eyes) are the real life photos of the SEALs and other American military men who were murdered by the Muslims in this operation and the rescue attempts. For many of them, the pictures show weddings, engagements, children–family members who lost their men way too early, while we continue to try to help Afghans who hate us build roads and other stuff. Their lives meant something, and it is a shame they lost those lives to a war that was never fought with any intention of winning or doing anything in America’s interest. “Democracy” in Afghanistan and roads and candy are not in America’s interest. Taking out our enemies, installing pro-U.S. dictators, and showing them who’s boss–that’s in America’s interest (and in the interest of Middle East stability), but we’re too busy appeasing and following Geneva Accords that terrorists couldn’t give a crap about.
When I screened this movie 1.5 months ago, a friend who saw it with me said he felt that Luttrell–as portrayed in the movie–was not heroic, because he was the one who outvoted the other SEALs (and was their commander), deciding to the let the Tali shepherds go. The other SEALs wanted to kill or tie them up. My friend feels Luttrell got the others killed with his decision. Is my friend right? I don’t choose to judge this decision harshly because I wasn’t there in the heat of war, forced to operate under unfair, one-sided rules I didn’t make. I think Luttrell’s actions and behavior aside from this were heroic and he got the Navy Cross for it.
One necessary aside: much has been made about star Wahlberg’s attack on Tom Cruise. During publicity for this movie, Wahlberg mocked Cruise’s statement in a lawsuit deposition that he views his acting as if it is military service in war. Yes, Cruise’s statement was absurd. But Wahlberg needs to look in the mirror. After all, this is the same schmuck who said that those on the 9/11 planes (including Danny Lewin of Israel’s elite Sayeret Matkal) were wimps and that he would have kicked the terrorists’ butt. Sure, you would have Marky Mark. Uh-huh. Remember, this former underwear model seems to only beat up (and try to kill) innocent Vietnamese store owners he’s robbing and take out their eyes with a meat hook (Wahlberg did that, was charged with attempted murder, and was sent to prison).
There is a big difference between playing a hero and actually being one. Neither Tom Cruise NOR Wahlberg seems to get that. Marcus Luttrell does but is very modest in his interviews that I’ve seen. He does, however, make two cameo appearances in the movie, playing another SEAL and has a couple of lines.
BTW, this isn’t for kids. It’s violent and bloody, and the good guys are mostly murdered. Plus, I could have done without the lewd speech given by one of the new SEALs at the beginning of the movie, but I know that’s how military guys talk when they are amongst themselves. So be it. Doesn’t take away from the movie.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Her“: I had mixed feelings about this. It’s very weird and different. I like weird and different . . . usually. But this kinda creeped me out. It’s like an R-rated version of “The Twilight Zone,” minus the class. The main character, Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix, is incredibly creepy. I like futuristic sci-fi–which this is in spades–and it’s an interesting social commentary on how we are out of touch with the real world when we become so connected and addicted to technology, including computers, smart phones, and so on. That message has been done before in other movies I’ve reviewed on this site. But I found this interesting. The movie is written and directed by Spike Jonze a/k/a Adam Spiegel.
The scariest thing I learned about the future from this movie (other than that people ghost write love letters for other people and that they become addicted to artificial intelligence) is that all the men wear tremendously unflattering Sansabelt pants (the kind that only looked acceptable on Rodney Dangerfield and Jack Nicklaus).
The story: Theodore is a lonely, very nerdy guy (who lives in an awesome apartment) in the future. I think it’s supposed to be post-modern Los Angeles, but looks like Tokyo, given the architecture. He works at BeautifullyHandwrittenLetters.com as a ghost-writer composing love letters back and forth between a couple. He has a very funny, smart alecky friend, played by Chris Pratt (he’s the best part of this movie) and a friend/neighbor, played by Amy Adams. He is about to be divorced and is urged by his friends to go out and date.
But, soon, he gets a new operating system for his computer/phone/other gadgets. She’s voiced by Scarlett Johansson. She reorganizes his e-mail, deletes things that aren’t necessary and otherwise organizes his technological life. But she reads all of his e-mails and starts to become intimately familiar with him. And he is falling for her. They have this weird, creepy phone sex, and “go on dates,” with Theodore going on a picnic with Pratt, Pratt’s girlfriend, and a picnic blanket with the operating system turned on. Weird. And also hilarious in a way.
Theodore’s strange “love affair” with his operating system keeps him from having a real relationship. His ex-wife says it’s no wonder he’s “dating” his operating system because he’s incapable of a relationship with a real woman. He goes on a blind date with Olivia Wilde and messes it up because nothing compares to this operating system. Imagine being in love with Siri from the iPhone. That’s what this is.
While Theodore is embarrassed to admit he has a romantic relationship with his operating system, he soon realizes that everyone is having such a relationship, and likely with the same operating system. She admits she’s having several such relationships, and he sees (Sansabelted) guy after guy coming out from the subway flirting with his iPhone. He soon learns his neighbor, Adams, has broken up with her human boyfriend and is bragging about “dating” her operating system.
The movie has its funny moments and sharply ridicules most of these people, but it tried to make us sympathize with and feel bad for Theodore and his creepy affair with Ms. Electronica, which bothered me. It is as ridiculous as the similar relationships everyone else in the movie has with their “humanized” gadgets.
It’s an interesting take on a current topic. And it’s definitely not for kids because it’s loaded with sexual imagery and foul language, which weren’t all necessary and definitely take away from the film.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “August: Osage County“: Oy-ya-yoy. I couldn’t take this slow, boring, pointless hag-fest starring the repellent Julia Roberts (playing her bitter self) and Meryl Streep, playing some crazed old woman. Oh, and then there’s the charming plot line of a woman having a sexual affair with a guy she believes is her first cousin, but turns out to be her brother. Fabulous. This was long and boring, and I struggled to get through the screener. When I was finished, I felt robbed by the time bandit. Two hours of my life wasted–two hours which I ain’t never gonna get back.
The “story”: Meryl Streep is the drug-addled, sickly matriarch of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family. When her husband disappears (and then his body is found and a funeral is held), her grown daughters are reunited with her (as are other family members–her sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and Streep’s daughters’ family members, boyfriends, etc.) Most of the story takes place at Streep’s dark country home, with all of the daughters arguing. One of the daughter’s boyfriends gives drugs to–and tries to have sex with–the underaged child of another daughter. One daughter declares she is dating, engaged to, and in love with her first cousin, whom we learn is her half brother. Let’s hear it for grrrl power!
There is no plot to this miserable, messed-up stream of consciousness. Figures that all the mainstream liberal movie critics just love this absolute dreck. The tagline of this movie is “Misery Loves Family.” Um, no. Misery is paying ten-plus bucks and sitting through this thing.
Skip at all cost.
FOUR MARXES PLUS FOUR BETTY FRIEDANS
Watch the trailer . . .
* “The Legend of Hercules“: Although slightly silly, very cliche, and entirely predictable, this telling of the story of Hercules was better than I expected. I could have done without the extremely laughable and absurd scene of Hercules’ mother having sex with something invisible, which is apparently supposed to be Zeus. But other than that, it’s basically your typical, banished illegitimate son comes back from slavery to take the kingdom from his evil stepfather and half brother and retakes his lady love. You get the point. I’m not a fan (at all) of Kellan Lutz (Miley Cyrus’ current boytoy), who plays Hercules. But the movie isn’t absolutely terrible. In fact, it’s okay and has lots of fighting and action scenes (it is far too violent and bloody for kids, in addition to the dumb sex scenes). There is good and the good vanquishes the bad and so on.
HALF A REAGAN
Watch the trailer . . .
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