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.
Martin Scorsese's star-studded gangster movie The Departed has landed three honors from the Las Vegas Film Society, including Best Picture.
The Departed also picked up a Best Director accolade for Scorsese and a Best Film Editing nod for Thelma Schoonmaker.
Elsewhere, Helen Mirren was named Best Actress for her turn in The Queen, while Best Actor went to Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland.
Peter O'Toole was honoured with the William Holden Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Las Vegas Film Society is made up of 12 local critics who work for various print, radio, TV and Internet publications.
The full list of winners is:
Best Picture--The Departed
Best Actor--Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress--Helen Mirren in The Queen
Best Supporting Actor--Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond
Best Supporting Actress--Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls
Best Director--Martin Scorsese for The Departed
Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted)--Jason Reitman for Thank You for Smoking
Best Cinematography--Emmanuel Lubezki for Children of Men
Best Film Editing--Thelma Schoonmaker for The Departed
Best Score--Thomas Newman for The Good German
Best Song--“Ordinary Miracle” by David Stewart and Glen Ballard; “Charlotte's Web” by Sarah McLachlan
Best Family Film--Charlotte's Web
Best Documentary--An Inconvenient Truth
Best Animated Film--Monster House
Best Foreign Film--Pan's Labyrinth
Best Costume Design--Marie Antoinette
Best Art Direction--Marie Antoinette
Best Visual Effects--X-Men: The Last Stand
Best Youth in Film--Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine
Best DVD (Packaging, Design and Content)--Superman Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner Home Entertainment)
William Holden Lifetime Achievement Award--Peter O'Toole
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Desert romance The English Patient, A Clockwork Orange and gay cowboy epic Brokeback Mountain have been included in a shortlist of the best 50 books to make it to the big screen.
The list, compiled by Britain's Book Marketing Society, honors literary classics turned into movie masterpieces and will be voted on by readers online and at UK bookshops.
Among the works cited, director Steven Spielberg is responsible for three: J.G. Ballard's Empire of the Sun, Thomas Keneally's Holocaust drama Schindler's Ark (filmed as Schindler's List), and Jaws, written by Peter Benchley.
Meanwhile, movie re-workings of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient, Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, and Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest have garnered 14 Oscars and another 11 Academy Award nominations.
Goodfellas, Pride and Prejudice, Get Shorty, Doctor Zhivago and Fight Club also make the shortlist.
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