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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