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.
There are several reasons I hate writing about the Real Housewives reunion specials. First of all, nothing happens. Well, things happen – apologies are made, hatchets are buried and then dug up again to plunge into someone else's back, Andy Cohen gets pushed by a raging Italian lunatic. Things happen, but it's all just them sitting there. There is so little to say. Also, there is so much screaming, so much nattering about who wrote what on who's blog and who Twittered what about someone's Facebook. I don't care about any of that. And none of these ladies have any proof about their allegations. We just want to know who won.
And we know that the second half of the RHOBH reunion is going to be boring. How? Well, it's only two parts, which is a death knell in these three-hour days. And there haven't been any exciting promos promising us that Andy Cohen is going to be attacked (by a human, bird, or other organism) so you know it's going to be tamer than Gretchen Rossi's hair after a Brazilian Blowout.
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So, yeah. Who won this season? Who gets to say that they are the champion? Well, here is my ranking of the women in order of who came out on top. The truth is, well, we all lose a little bit.
Yolanda Bananas Foster: I am as shocked as you are, but YBF won this season. How? It was a combination of a clear vision, a no-nonsense attitude, and an ability to hold people to account for what they said and did while still managing to seem like a sane, rational human being, something that is in short supply among these lizard creatures. Yes, she didn't spend a lot of time interacting with the women. Yes, her husband, noted clacking skeleton and woman bedder David Foster Wallace, is right up there on The Worst spectrum with Faye Resnick and malignant melanomas. But she came from behind at the end of the season and stood up to the whole rabid pack of hyenas at Adrienne's vodka party and then stood toe to toe with human foot fungas discoloration Faye Resnick at Lisa's housewarming. She's acquitted herself nicely at the reunion and will be a splendid addition to the cast. And did you see her fridge?
Brandi Glanville: This isn't so much a second place as it's a tie with YBF. I'm not quite sure how Brandi stays on top of the fray while being on the bottom of the dogpile for most of the season. I guess it's her authenticity, which shines like one of the stripper poles she rode down to everyone's delight. Yes, she handled some situations very wrong, but most of the animosity leveled at her because of her square-off with Adrienne was for her telling the truth. Everyone loves the truth (espeically when it's juicy). Then Brandi was chased by an awful rich woman and her screaming accomplices, which definitley got her some sympathy. She also formed some strong bonds on the show and was loyal to her friends. Even the Sisters Richards say they like her now, so that's headway. I think the thing that works best for Brandi though is that she's always playing defense. My father once told me the best offense is a good defense, and I had no idea what he was talking about until I watched this show.
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Lisa Vanderpump: Lisa's fight with Kyle was totally bogus and as dry as a piece of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of a table three days ago, but it was her refreshingly honest friendship with Brandi that carried the season. She was both sister and mother to our favorite blonde, standing by her side when the evil munitions marched against her, but then scolding her in private for her temper and crass language. They are quite the perfect balance. But better than anything, the two have a sense of humor with each other, something that all the other women seem to be lacking.
Kim Richards: It may look like she's in the middle of the pack, but she really made a big stride forward this year. Her storyline wasn't, "God, how messed up is Kim?" it was, "God, when is Kim gonna get messed up?" which is step in the right direction. She didn't attend every event, but she interacted more with everyone and played a central role in some of the bigger conflicts. But still, watching Kim is like staring at an open wound and marveling at how slowly the healing process takes. She and Kyle have a relationship as frayed as a rope cut with a spoon and she is so far from being whole that, well, maybe she shouldn't be on TV. If only I could stop watching her and thinking about her and formulating sad scenarios to test her will in my imagination. But she got her catch phrase, "I love turtles," and mixed some creepy chicken salad, so yay! Kim, for all her sad eccentricities, is joining the world of the living.
Kyle Richards: Kyle's biggest sin this season was picking the wrong side. Well, actually it was not picking a side at all. When the lines were drawn between Team Brandi and Team Maloof, she said she wasn't taking a side, but kept talking for Adrienne since she wasn't there to defend herself. So she didn't want to take a side, but then she took the wrong side. That and her whining that Kim just wouldn't get better the very second she left rehab didn't do her any favors. And remember, Kyle, no one likes someone who won't make a decision. That's why we all hate bisexuals.
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The Widow Armstrong: If she wasn't present at the Dana/Pam drunken lunch that appeared from heaven like a GIF gift from the reality TV gods, then she would have been completely worthless all season.
Adrienne Maloof: Oh boy did Adrienne, the Queen of the Maloofs (a race of mole people that live under the mountain) lose this season. She lost it spectacularly and in so many ways. First of all she went on the attack against Brandi, a fan favorite, which is never a good idea. Secondly, she proved to be the worst kind of rich person by using her money and her lawyers to intimidate Brandi. Then she lied about it and got caught in her lies but still wouldn't confess. There was all that drama about leaking stories to the press and all the hemming and hawing about her "secret" which wasn't very secretive at all an which no one really cared about. Let's not forget her disappearing act where the other women had to defend her or that she left brown self tanner stains on Lisa's couch and then didn't apologize for it (which is perhaps the greatest . She threw a horrible vodka party, she tarnished Brandi's name, and then she showed up at Lisa's party the day she got served her divorce papers and got mad at Lisa for not coming over the comfort her. It was wrong. It was all wrong.
But then the worst of all, as Andy Cohen pointed out last week, she opted not to come to the reunion. This shouldn't have been a reunion, this should have been a tribunal where this monster was made to answer for her war crimes. She should have been forced to tell the truth and give us some satisfaction, but she never would have given us the former and robbed us of the latter. This is how we will remember Adrienne, as conniving, cowardly, abusive, and just dead wrong. She loses, now and forever.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Bravo]
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You may have heard critics and advertisers tout The Social Network David Fincher’s finger-pointing film about how Facebook was harvested from the halls of Harvard and turned into a billion dollar business as “the movie of the decade” or “a generation-defining film.” This kind of praise has led the entertainment journalism collective to liken it to true staples of cinema like Citizen Kane and The Graduate. In terms of relevance to its audience those are fair if overreaching statements. The film depicts its teenage characters with unflinching pragmatism as it weaves the nasty web of deception and betrayal that is the story of the social media juggernaut. In terms of its protagonist’s journey however I couldn’t help but compare it to another landmark film: 1974’s Death Wish.
Like Michael Winner’s divisive and controversial revenge flick the action in The Social Network as with so many stories kicks off when anti-hero Mark Zuckerberg loses the leading lady in his life. Luckily she’s not slaughtered by a pack of petty thugs but instead liberates herself from her pretentious and pessimistic beau in the crushing opening scene of the film which sets into motion a chain of events that will change his life – and the world.
Zuckerberg played with sardonic wit by rising star Jesse Eisenberg retreats to his Kirkland Hall haven seeking retribution (see where I’m going with this?). He gets drunk blogs unfavorably about his ex and creates a program that places female students’ headshots side by side so that inebriated undergrads can anonymously rate them. The site called Facemash accumulates so many hits that it crashes the University’s servers which gets the attention of the school’s cyber-security squad as well as a group of aspiring entrepreneurs. Twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) well-to-do all-American future Olympians approach Zuckerberg with an opportunity to design a website that they’ve been quietly developing: a social network exclusive to Harvard students. Mark likes the idea but doesn’t want to be a part of it: he wants the whole thing. If greed is good then Zuckerberg (though not exactly financially motivated) is great.
The connections between Charles Bronson’s career defining film and Fincher’s soon-to-be-classic movie are of course hypothetical. My point is that like Paul Kersey Zuckerberg paints a target on his head with his vengeful actions as he breaks the rules of business ethics and leaves his mark on the world. Only after the storm has begun brewing does he realize that he’s in way over his head.
The Social Network is more a meditation on right vs. wrong than a chronicle of the birth of Facebook and it is a more affecting film because of that. The courtroom drama that ensues through Fincher’s two-hour masterpiece pulls no punches and asks the questions that we the audience are most curious about: Who really started Facebook? How much is the company worth? Fincher explores the historic and meteoric rise of this digital domain delicately building the tension organically as each chapter gives way to a new series of inquiries during the legal proceedings. Rather than provide a definitive answer he leaves the audience responsible for drawing its own conclusions.
Though it’s quite different from many of the grim stories Fincher’s told before The Social Network still conforms to the technical style that defines his work. The dank college dorms and dingy frat houses bring to mind the dreary environments of Panic Room and Fight Club especially in terms of lighting and color. Quick cuts convey the lightening fast pace in which we consume information in the digital age. The ominous music composed by Trent Reznor aids the auteur in expressing the enormity of the situation. Most noteworthy however is Aaron Sorkin’s stinging script which uses tech-speak legal lingo and slang to tell the tale of sex lies and limitless fortunes. He brilliantly combines multiple points of view (that of Zuckerberg his partner Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevosses) of the same events to bring his audience a well-rounded and unbiased account of the events that turned best friends into bitter enemies and bookworms into billionaires.
I believe that while it will certainly garner numerous award nominations come January The Social Network’s full impact will not be felt until the generation that it portrays can look back at it in retrospect. It is a very contemporary piece of thought provoking entertainment but we can’t assume that it defines who we are as a collective community because like Zuckerberg says of his digital society we don’t really know what it is yet.
Attractive college co-ed Casey (Odette Yustman) finds herself the target of the diabolical Dybbuk a spirit which has bided its time since her birth to make its nefarious presence known. Is it perhaps a manifestation of her twin brother who died in the womb all those years ago? Since dear old Dad (James Remar) is away on business -- seemingly for the entire length of the movie -- concerned Casey seeks answers from Sofi Kozma (Jane Alexander) a survivor of the Holocaust who may hold the key to Casey’s past. Needless to say those to whom Casey confides her fears often find themselves in danger of being offed in gruesome fashion. (Misery may love company but the Dybbuk doesn’t.) In a last-ditch effort to rid herself of the evil spirit Casey turns to Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) who finally agrees to perform an exorcism after he too sees the signs. Aside from acting terrified (and looking good doing it) Yustman (Cloverfield) is totally at the mercy of the story which shows little mercy when it comes to providing any concrete (or even shaky) answers to the questions it raises. She’s attractive but there’s not much else to the character. As Casey’s respective boyfriend and best friend Cam Gigandet (Twilight) and Meagan Good (Saw V) are merely functionaries offering the typical mixture of skepticism and support before learning for themselves -- too late of course! -- that maybe Casey’s suspicions have validity. Adding a (misplaced?) touch of class to the proceedings are Oldman who doesn’t embarrass himself and Alexander who isn’t so fortunate. It’s also a wonder why Carla Gugino seen occasionally in flashback as Casey’s deceased mother even bothered. It’s a nothing role which might explain why the actress has no billing other than in the end credits. There’s no question that writer/director David S. Goyer has a deep love and appreciation for horror and science-fiction given his previous credits which include the scripts for Dark City Blade and The Dark Knight but as a director his work (which includes Blade: Trinity and last year’s The Invisible) leaves much to be desired. There are some good ideas here and some individual scenes are reasonably effective but the parts don’t add up to a satisfactory whole. The Unborn suffers from a botched delivery.
Meet internationally renown oceanographer and documentarian Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and some of his Team Zissou: Eleanor Zissou (Anjelica Huston) his estranged wife and the "brains behind the operation"; Klaus Daimler (Willem Dafoe) the loyal chief engineer; and Oseary Drakoulias (Michael Gambon) the septuagenarian producer. Unfortunately Zissou's days are numbered having been pushed close to bankruptcy by his arch rival Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum). But what's really bothering Zissou is that his best friend and longtime collaborator Esteban (Seymour Cassel) has been eaten by an underwater assailant known as the Jaguar Shark. Charged by vengeance Zissou sets out on his boat The Belafonte to hunt down the predator in one last filmed expedition. He is joined by two new Team Zissou members: Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) a young airline copilot who may be Zissou's son and Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett) a beautiful and pregnant journalist assigned to write a profile of Zissou. Along the way they face overwhelming complications including marauding pirates kidnappings and a maelstrom of human yearning.
Bill Murray has got to be one of the funniest people on the planet without ever seeming to be and his collaborations with director Wes Anderson (Rushmore The Royal Tenenbaums) have happily exploited that wellspring of comic talent. Zissou is pure Murray: slightly acerbic slightly aloof not terribly likable but deeply vulnerable. Sure the actor can play this part in his sleep but somehow he never makes it boring. The rest of the cast also measures up. Huston is striking as the austere Eleanor who is basically the glue that holds Zissou together. Wilson another Anderson staple is once again playing a very earnest fellow who simply wants to connect with the man who could be his long-lost father while also finding a little love with Jane. As the journalist the always good Blanchett who was actually pregnant during the making of Aquatic is perfect as the emotional conduit between Zissou and Ned. Dafoe finally gets to be funny in a film--and we don't count his turn as a surly fish in Finding Nemo--as the fiercely devoted Klaus who's a bit jealous of Ned. But the pièce de résistance is Brazilian actor Seu Jorge as The Belafonte's safety expert who regularly serenades the team with Portuguese renditions of David Bowie songs. Classic stuff.
In what is definitely the director's most ambitious film to date--and he may be tired of hearing that--The Life Aquatic further highlights Wes Anderson's twisted yet exquisitely witty sensibilities that were evident in his three previous efforts Bottle Rocket Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Paying obvious homage to the stiff documentaries made by the legendary Jacques Cousteau as well as incorporating references to such movies as The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach expertly hand us the skewed universe of Zissou in hilariously played-out sequences. We can also clearly see where the bigger budget went when Team Anderson sets out to sea. There's the spectacular Belafonte set with its individual compartments in which the actors move about and the campy stop-motion special effects of the odd sea life Zissou and gang encounter. While all of this makes for an enjoyable ride the movie ultimately lacks a cohesive soul. There is a small amount of redemption at the end when Zissou comes to terms with his life and ambitions but it seems tacked on as a way to tie everything up.