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.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Puerto Rico's Chayanne and Mexico's Pilar Montenegro were the big winners at the Billboard Latin Music Awards in Miami Thursday night, taking home three awards each.
Spanish trio Las Ketchup, Mexican group Mana, Argentine-Mexican duo Sin Bandera and Mexico's Los Temerarios and Lupilla Rivera all walked away with two awards each.
Latin stars Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, Luis Miguel, India and Juanes picked up one trophy each at the ceremony.
For the first time in the show's history, awards were also given for label of the year in various genres. Sony Discos led the way as the top label on six Billboard charts, including Hot Latin Tracks, Top Latin Albums, Latin Pop Airplay, Tropical/Salsa Airplay, Latin Pop Albums, and Tropical/Salsa Albums.
This year's event included two special award presentations. Mexican composer/singer Armando Manzanero was honored with the Billboard Hall of Fame Award for his contribution to Latin music.
Panamanian rapper El General, meanwhile, received the Spirit of Hope Award for his work with Ninos Pobres Sin Fronteras (Poor Children With No Borders), the Panama-based foundation he created and supports.
Ricky Martin, who performed the song "Tal Vez (Maybe)," was honored with Telemundo's Star award.
Other performers included Chayanne and Montenegro, who performed their hit songs, and Mexican star Thalia, who won the female pop album of the year for Thalia and the Telemundo Viewers Choice award. A.B. Quintanilla, Alexandre Pires, Gilberto Santa Rosa, India Kumbia Kings, and Lupillo Rivera also performed at the ceremony.
Below is a complete list of winners at the 2003 Billboard Latin Music Awards, presented May 8 at the Miami Arena.
Hot Latin Track Of The Year: "Y Tu Te Vas" Chayanne (Sony Discos)
Hot Latin Track Of The Year, Vocal Duo: "Por Ese Hombre" Brenda K. Starr With Tito Nieves and Victor Manuelle (Sony Discos)
Hot Latin Tracks Artist Of The Year: Alexandre Pires (RCA/BMG Latin)
Songwriter Of The Year: Estefano (10 titles)
Producer Of The Year: Rudy Perez (8 titles)
Latin Pop Album Of The Year, Male: Un Dia Normal Juanes (Surco/Universal Latino)
Latin Pop Album Of The Year, Female: Thalia Thalia (EMI Latin)
Latin Pop Album Of The Year, Duo or Group: Revolucion De Amor Mana (Warner Latina)
Latin Pop Album Of The Year, New Artist: Las Ketchup Las Ketchup (Shaketown/Columbia/Sony Discos)
Top Latin Albums Artist Of The Year: Los Temerarios (Fonovisa/UG)
Latin Rock Album Of The Year: Revolucion De Amor Mana (Warner Latina)
Tropical/Salsa Album Of The Year, Male: Viceversa Gilberto Santa Rosa (Sony Discos)
Tropical/Salsa Album Of The Year, Female: Latin Songbird: Mi Alma Y Corazon India (Sony Discos)
Tropical/Salsa Album Of The Year, Duo or Group: Confesiones... Monchy & Alexandra (J&N/Sony Discos)
Tropical/Salsa Album Of The Year, New Artist: Un Gran Dia En El Barrio Spanish Harlem Orchestra (Ropeadope/AG)
Regional Mexican Album Of The Year, Male Solo Artist: Amorcito Corazon Lupillo Rivera (Sony Discos)
Regional Mexican Album Of The Year, Male Group: Una Lagrima No Basta Los Temerarios (Fonovisa/UG)
Regional Mexican Album Of The Year, Female Group or Female Solo Artist: Libre Jennifer Pena (Univision/UG)
Regional Mexican Album Of The Year, New Artist: A Toda Onda La Onda (EMI Latin)
Latin Greatest Hits Album Of The Year: Grandes Exitos Chayanne (Sony Discos)
Latin Compilation Album Of The Year: Las 30 Cumbias Mas Pegadas Various Artists (Disa/UG)
Latin Jazz Album Of The Year: The Shadow Of The Cat Gato Barbieri (Peak/Concord)
Latin Dance Club Play Track Of The Year: "Escape/Escapar (Remixes)" Enrique Iglesias (Interscope/Universal Latino)
Latin Dance Single Of The Year: "Alive (Thunderpuss Remix)" Jennifer Lopez (Epic)
Latin Rap Album Of The Year: A La Reconquista Hector & Tito (VI Music/Universal Latino)
Publisher Of The Year: EMI April, ASCAP
Publishing Corporation Of The Year: EMI Music Publishing
Latin Pop Airplay Track Of The Year, Male: "Y Tu Te Vas" Chayanne (Sony Discos)
Latin Pop Airplay Track Of The Year, Female: "Quitame Ese Hombre" Pilar Montenegro (Univision)
Latin Pop Airplay Track Of The Year, Duo or Group: "Entra En Mi Vida" Sin Bandera (Sony Discos)
Latin Pop Airplay Track Of The Year, New Artist: "Entra En Mi Vida" Sin Bandera (Sony Discos)
Tropical/Salsa Airplay Track Of The Year, Male: "Viviendo" Marc Anthony (Columbia/Sony Discos)
Tropical/Salsa Airplay Track Of The Year, Female: "Por Ese Hombre" Brenda K. Starr (Sony Discos)
Tropical/Salsa Airplay Track Of The Year, Duo or Group: "Te Quiero Igual Que Ayer" Monchy & Alexandra (J&N/Sony Discos)
Tropical/Salsa Airplay Track Of The Year, New Artist: "Asereje" Las Ketchup (Sony Discos)
Regional Mexican Airplay Track Of The Year, Male Solo Artist: "Te Solte La Rienda" Lupillo Rivera (Sony Discos)
Regional Mexican Airplay Track Of The Year, Male Group: "Perdoname Mi Amor" Conjunto Primavera (Fonovisa)
Regional Mexican Airplay Track Of The Year, Female Group or Female Solo Artist: "Quitame Ese Hombre (version nortena)" Pilar Montenegro (Univision)
Regional Mexican Airplay Track Of The Year, New Artist: "Quitame Ese Hombre (version nortena)" Pilar Montenegro (Univision)
Latin Christian/Gospel Album Of The Year: Storm Fernando Ortega (Word)
Latin Tour Of The Year: Luis Miguel (Warner Latina)
Hot Latin Tracks Label Of the Year: Sony Discos
Top Latin Albums Label Of the Year: Sony Discos
Latin Pop Airplay Label Of the Year: Sony Discos
Tropical/Salsa Airplay Label Of the Year: Sony Discos
Regional Mexican Airplay Label Of the Year: Fonovisa
Latin Pop Albums Label Of the Year: Sony Discos
Tropical/Salsa Albums Label Of the Year: Sony Discos
Regional Mexican Albums Label Of the Year: Univision Music Group
The winners are determined by sales and airplay measured by Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, respectively, reflected in the Billboard charts for the issues dated Feb. 16, 2002, through Feb. 8, 2003.