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.
At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
Johnny Depp's love life may be on the fritz, but he's still number one in America's heart. According to a recent poll done by Harris Interactive, the actor's been voted America's Favorite Actor for the second year in a row. The poll surveyed 2,237 adults online for a week in early December with Mr. Depp leading the pack -- and it's really no surprise (I mean, it's Johnny Depp!). Runners-up in the poll included Denzel Washington and Clint Eastwood, both tying for second. Tom Hanks, George Clooney, and Harrison Ford also earned notable placements. The list was also open to female stars, but only Sandra Bullock made it into the top ten, which is a shame, given all the dynamic female talent in the industry (especially lately). For a full list of the top ten contenders, click here. - Huffington Post
Reports are circulating that there might be a new man in Taylor Swift's life...in the form of Zac Efron! The hunky star was spotted having a flirty dinner date with the country superstar at the L.A. Italian eatery, Pace. A fellow diner at the restaurant told Us Weekly that the duo "were deep in conversation and very giggly." So could this be the start of a new romance? It's definitely possible, but maybe not as probable as we would like. An insider countered the suggestion, saying, "They were in L.A. doing press stuff together, and after they were done, they decided to grab dinner," while another source added, "Taylor thinks Zac's cute…[but] they are on totally different wavelengths." So unsurprisingly, I have no idea what to believe about all this, but I think they would make an adorable couple. Plus, T-Swift is going to need more inspiration for future albums and Efron would be the perfect muse. Let the romance speculation commence! - US
Grey's Anatomy star Sarah Drew delivered a baby boy on Wednesday night, weighing a healthy 7 lbs., 4 oz. Her rep confirmed the exciting news exclusively with People magazine, saying, “She and her husband, Peter Lanfer, are in love with him!” So what kind of crazy, outlandish name did the actress decide to name her little bundle of joy? The boy's name is Micah Emmanuel Lanfer, which is actually pretty adorable. Congratulations to the newbie parents! - People
On Friday, a judge sided with filmmaker Woody Allen in his lawsuit against former business partner Jean Doumanian and her boyfriend and business partner, Jacqui Safra. Allen is suing both Doumanian and Safra, claiming they cheated him out of profits on eight movies since 1993, including Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite, Everyone Says I Love You, Deconstructing Harry and Small Time Crooks. According to The Associated Press, Justice Ira Gammerman disagreed with the defendants' position that the films were an extension of a three-picture agreement they had with Allen in computing profits. The case is scheduled to resume today.
Newspapers reported Sunday that Rolling Stone frontman Mick Jagger could be headed for knighthood. The News of the World and the Sunday Times both reported that Jagger will be knighted by Queen Elizabeth in her honors list next weekend, but a spokeswoman for the British government told Reuters they never comment on honors until they are published.
Eminem reportedly brought in his old car, a purple Ford Mustang, for trade-in last week at a Detroit-area dealership. According to the AP, Eminem's uncle brought the car in to Russ Milne Ford while the rapper waited outside, where one of the workers recognized him. Russ Milne said it is considering selling the car and donating the proceeds to charity. Unfortunately, the car's $7,000 stereo system and Cobra tires were removed prior to the trade.
Former teen idol Johnny Depp is in talks to star in two action pics for producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The two-picture deal with the Walt Disney Co. would have Depp working with Bruckheimer on Takedown and Pirates of the Caribbean, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Depp last starred in the historical thriller From Hell by director Albert Hughes.
Fritz Lang's 1927 expressionist film Metropolis will premiere at the Film Forum in New York on July 12, Variety reports. The new version, a digitally restored 35mm print, premiered at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival as a work-in-progress, with the final reel of footage still unrestored.
It looks as though Brad Pitt's big-budget sci-fi epic The Fountain is set to begin production soon after a change of co-financiers. The film, budgeted at upwards of $70 million, will be directed by Darren Aronofsky from a script he co-wrote with Ari Handel. The film is being produced by New Regency and Warner Bros.
New Line Cinema is in talks with Antz scribe Todd Alcott to write the live-action adaptation of the adventure series Samurai Jack. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film will be directed by Rush Hour 2's Brett Ratner.
Two songwriters have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia against Britney Spears, her publishing company, Zomba, and her record company, Jive Records, claiming they own the copyright to a song on her Oops!...I Did It Again album. According to Sky News, Michael Cottrill and Larry Wnukowski say they wrote the song "What You See Is What You Get" in 1999 and want recognition for the tune.
Herman Cohen, the originator of the teen fright flick, died of throat cancer at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on June 2, Reuters reports. Cohen produced the 1957 cult classic I Was a Teenage Werewolf, which launched the late Michael Landon's career. Cohen went on to produce six more teen horror pictures, including I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and How to Make a Monster. Cohen is survived by a brother and sister.