Universal via Everett Collection
Lone Survivor isn't a film for the faint of heart. It's a film that beats you down and only lets you up for a few precious moments before the credits roll, but that emotional throttling is what helps make the film such a powerful experience.
Peter Berg's Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Red Wings, primarily focusing on a group of four Navy SEALs who are sent to the mountains of Afganistan to capture or kill a member of the Taliban. The plan goes wrong, and the team has to fight for their lives to escape the enemy-infested area. The film does a marvelous job of ratcheting up the tension before collapsing into its main action sequence, one that is as thrilling as it is unsettling. The long sequence brings forth memories of the infamous D-Day opening of Saving Private Ryan, except this film's fire-fight stretches out the violence like a medieval torture device. The langourous scene is, at times, hard to sit through. Each moment slips by in coiled tension. It's undoubtedly uncomfortable, and the film makes a point to never make the violence fun or enticing. The action isn't consequence-free, and every bullet fired carries weight, making the scenes brutal and unrelenting because of it. The film takes on the aura of a horror movie that wants you to feel every second that ticks by, and director Berg makes sure that a pressing hopelessness starts to weigh on the viewer just as it does on the soldiers.
Mark Wahlberg is plenty capable as Marcus Lutrell, a member of the SEAL unit that is sent on the mission. The supporting cast plays its parts admirably by believably infusing a diverse set of personalities and values into the soldiers, while still keeping them in tune with the same military culture that governs much of their thoughts and actions. There's a great scene where a difficult decision has to be made, and the viewer gets to see the different directions to which some of the character's moral compasses are tuned. Sometimes the right thing can mean different things to different people when the risk of death is on the table. The real standout in the cast is Ben Foster, whose SO2 Matthew Alexson swirls with barely contained fury. He is darkly intense and has electric screen presence that really starts to manifest when the bullets star flying and things become dire.
Universal via Everett Collection
For all the good will that the film builds up in its first and second act, the final third of the film hits some snags as history demands that the story take itself to a different location, sacrificing some of the tension that it has built up. In the last 30 minutes of the film, there are some odd tonal choices that don't gel with the tension brimming in the first half. A comedic scene involving a language barrier stands out in particular.
The movie makes a point to steer clear of any political judgment, and it doesn't try to lay blame for the botched mission on any one head. And while the film never outwardly states and opinion on the conflicts that America found itself embroiled in during this time period, the searing brutality depicted in the movie highlight that no one should be subjected to the pain that these men were faced with. Made abundantly clear is the soldiers' willingness to drop everything and serve their country the best way they know how. Lone Survivor tries to honor the soldier, but not glorify war.
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Lone Survivor is at its best when it makes you feel the worst. It gives soldiers their due reverence by showcasing the true terror of the battlefield, and while the film does start to sag a bit in its third act, it's still more than worth the experience in order understand the consequences of war, and its toll on the people in the trenches.
In the 2006 animated blockbuster Happy Feet an alienated emperor penguin named Mumbles found empowerment through tap-dancing and in so doing managed to both attract a mate and stop the overfishing that imperiled his Antarctic habitat. Directed by George Mitchell – the same George Mitchell who gave us the post-apocalyptic Mad Max trilogy and the almost despairingly bleak Babe: Pig in the City – Happy Feet paired its broadly conventional narrative with a darker sensibility not often seen in talking-animal fare.
The film’s sequel Happy Feet Two finds Mitchell (co-directing with Gary Eck) both more jovial and more easily distracted. The story begins straightforwardly enough with Mumbles (Elijah Wood) now grown-up and by all appearances well-adjusted ceding the mantle of self-discovery to his son Erik (Ava Acres). Boogie fever has swept the once dance-averse penguin nation but in a cruelly ironic twist Erik has inherited none of his father’s nifty moves. But just as Happy Feet Two appears intent on recycling its predecessor’s basic storyline the film abruptly changes course and embarks on a series of detours that seemed geared more as fodder for throwaway gags and showy set pieces than anything else. The disparate narrative elements while enjoyable in isolation never quite coalesce into a meaningful whole leaving us entertained but unfulfilled.
As before Happy Feet Two features a variety of buoyant song-and-dance numbers with Alecia Moore (aka P!nk) lending her formidable pipes to spirited re-workings of “Rhythm Nation” and “Under Pressure ” among others. Robin Williams returns for double duty as both Ramon a diminutive oversexed Latin lover and Lovelace a fiery Southern-preacher type. (Lovelace later adopts a Rastafarian dialect allowing Williams to achieve the rare culture-caricature trifecta.) His voracious scenery-devouring is all the more impressive given the grandeur of the scenery. Not to be left out of the quasi-Vaudevillian comic shenanigans Hank Azaria lays on a thick Scandinavian shtick as Sven a charismatic Arctic émigré who presents himself as the only penguin in the world who can fly. Azaria is a hoot but the film’s best moments come courtesy of the cast’s highest-profile additions Matt Damon and Brad Pitt voicing Bill and Will (respectively) two tiny krill in search of meaning at the bottom of the food chain.
The 61 year old rose to fame in the 1970s as Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith's co-star on the hit U.S. TV series - but her career was put on hold in 1987, after she was diagnosed with the deadly disease.
She battled the illness throughout the 1980s but was finally given a clean bill of health after a series of major operations.
Jackson went on to adopt her first child, Charles Taylor Jackson, in September 1995, and continued to work on her TV career.
Now the star will share her personal ups and downs in an as-yet-untitled tome, scheduled for release in June 2011.
Sally Field is feeling just fine, but that isn’t stopping her from checking into the "ER." The two-time Oscar-winning actress ("Norma Rae," "Places in the Heart") will appear in six episodes of the NBC drama, in which she’ll play the estranged mother to series regular Maura Tierney.
Field will first appear in two episodes during the November sweeps, then three more at the end of the season. Yes Sally, we like you. We really like you. At least the "ER" producers do, anyway.
Princess Diana LADY DI LIVES: Three years after her death, Princess Diana still speaks, on audio tape, of course. The late princess’s voice might be heard on a British TV movie about journalist Andrew Morton, who wrote the tell-all biography "Diana: Her True Story." Turns out the princess secretly gave Morton 23 audio tapes in which she spills the beans on her broken marriage to Prince Charles. But producers of the film, fearing a public backlash, are considering using an actress’s voice instead.
GRAMMER GRIPES: "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer has sued his former agency in an attempt to recover $1.8 million in commissions he was ordered to pay earlier this month in a separate lawsuit. Artist Agency says the actor owes nearly $2 million in commissions. Grammer says no way, but a judge disagreed.
HEEEEEEEERE’S JERRY! That’s right, trash TV yakker Jerry Springer might be on course to host a late-night talk show a la Jay Leno and David Letterman in London. The show is to be unveiled Friday during a fall programming press conference.
FARRAH FUMES: Actress and erstwhile pin-up doll Farrah Fawcett is steaming mad over the way she’s been portrayed in the media. The former "Charlie’s Angel" tells Movieline magazine that she’s definitely not a drug and alcohol abuser. In fact, in her free time, she says you can find her at the gym, playing paddle tennis or in the ocean. Thanks for clearing that up for us, Farrah.
RESUSCITATE ME, SCOTTY: William Shatner was the master of ceremonies for the grand opening of a 9,500-square-foot emergency room in Charleston, W. Va. But the actor almost didn’t make it when he nearly missed his flight . "About 200 yards into my dash through the airport, I was thinking to myself that I was going to have a heart attack," he told Reuters. "Then I thought, I should at least wait until I get to Charleston to have it, so I could come to this wonderful facility."