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.
S3E12:Thank God for the Sam and Mercedes storyline. It’s not novel or unique by any means, but at least it’s something. Despite the fact that this storyline is a result of personnel issues in the real world (Chord Overstreet quitting and then coming back), it’s the most viable of the various stories on Glee. This week saw stories pop out of thin air: Emma’s ambition, Schue’s sudden incompetency, Sue’s need to procreate, unnecessary bitchiness from a Real Housewife of Atlanta posing as a swim coach. Plus, that whole Finn and Rachel nonsense gets an extra layer of obnoxious when she compares her love to that of Twilight’s Edward and Bella. And if all that wasn’t enough, Schue decides to have the kids sing songs in Spanish, which means the songs don’t replace nearly as much dialog as they usually do. But it wasn’t all bad – Emma keeps the humor in the episode afloat with her ridiculous pamphlet titles like “So you’re a cheating ho.” They’re annoying at first, but by the time she slips one into Schue’s Spanish dictionary, we’re onboard.
“I’m sorry, can you speak slower? Maybe your accent is throwing me off. Where are you from?” –Will
“Ohio” –David Martinez
A history teacher loses her mind and subsequently loses her job, so Will is naturally after the tenure position. There's just one giant problem that didn’t exist until the third season of the show: he’s terrible at Spanish. He starts taking Spanish from the night school teacher, David Martinez (guest star Ricky Martin) whose generic Spanish name has to have been pulled out of a Spanish teacher name-generator. After some overdrawn story about being a tooth model – is that why we were all so mesmerized by “Living La Vida Loca?” I always thought it was in the hips – David says he’s tired of modeling and that he wants to teach Spanish and help kids. Then he gives Will his only great Spanish class idea (but one that will only benefit the glee club, who cares about the other kids?): learning languages more easily through music. Will thinks if he can teach the whole club to sing in Spanish, he’ll get the tenure spot – but would he really deserve it if he got it by stealing another teacher’s idea?
Schue introduces the “Latin” songs week and Santana points out that he doesn’t know anything about Latin culture and questions his reasons for starting it in the first place. (Because she should. It’s suspicious!) Schue brings in David with the flimsy explanation that he wants to start a night school choir – but really because he’s Ricky Martin and he needs to perform. Everyone falls in love with David – I want a GIF of Sugar’s face when he first walks in. Please, someone get on that. Schue keeps overusing David’s term “Duende” which they won’t define simply, but it’s basically “passion.” So, David sings LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” – and there are already so many things wrong with that sentence. The song literally says, “passion in my pants” and that “wiggle” section is not referring to shaking one’s arms. What is with the teachers on this show singing inappropriate songs? This is not a song for high school! Why is this never an issue? But, I suppose dealing with the fact that Schue can’t speak Spanish is probably important too.
“Same goes for you, Porcelain. The weirdness ends with you.” –Sue
We learn that Sue is looking for sperm donors because she has the glee club men lined up while she lectures them about their masturbation habits. What is going on? There’s a difference between being open about sexuality and using it for shock and awe - Glee has started using sexuality in the latter sense. Sue wants a kid because she says she did a good job with her sister and with Becky, and she uses this as a segway into her bid for the open tenure position while asking Will offhand for his sample. This should be a joke, but the sad thing is that it turns out to be a piece of the actual story.
How? It starts when Figgins gets a complaint about Sue’s ability to coach the Cheerios and he appoints synchronized swimming coach Roz Washington (Nene Leakes) to help choreograph the team. Besides the fact that she has the Cheerios practice in their letterman jackets (dear costume designer, this makes zero sense) having Leakes as a real character on this show is the joke of jokes. Ricky Martin’s not a great actor, but her inadequacy puts his to shame. It’s an insult to Jane Lynch to have her to go tete a tete with the Real Housewife. Plus, she’s just plain nasty, telling Sue she’s too old to be a coach, too old to have kids, even going as far as saying all that will ever come out of her “old wrinkly boobs” is sand. I’m sorry, but since when does this string of insults pass for dialog on this show? Glee, you’ve been better than this before. Come back to us.
Because that request for Schue’s sample apparently wasn’t a joke, Emma confronts Sue about why she asked for it. Sue says she’s mean and that Schue has always been such a good person; if kindness is genetic, she wants to get it from Will. Emma gets all saintly and tells Sue she’s not okay with this request but that Sue will be a good mother – but honestly, if experience tells us anything she absolutely would not. This scene tries so hard to be sweet, but tender music and slowing of dialog combined with Roz’ unnecessarily mean commentary does not a gooey emotional center make! And then they take it a step further by having Santana respond with an insult about Sue’s vagina when Sue’s falsely accuses her of complaining to Figgins – how many times do we need to hear “boobs” and “vagina” in one episode of Glee of all things? They try to bring the "Sue as a mother" theme home when we find Becky issued the complaint, but it’s okay because she thinks Sue will make a good mother. Nope. It’s not working, writers. Sorry.
“Sam just tweeted that I smell good.” –Mercedes
“I won’t stop until it’s trending.” –Sam
Now, for the part that is working: the sweet romance between Trouty Mouth and Mercedes. Emma is counseling them because they kissed and they don’t know what to do. Tired references to our generation’s over-saturation of technology aside, Emma makes a decent point that they should cease communication for a week so they can make an informed decision. Their response to the need for showing the growing desire between the pair, while managing to not break Emma’s no talking rule, is for them to each sing songs in glee club that represent their feelings. Because that’s this show’s bread and butter, of course! Mercedes sings “Si Voy a Pederte” by Gloria Estefan which is more about loss than a reunion, but maybe that’s what they’re going for? (Or it sounds romantic, so they used it anyway.) Sam sings a mashup of “Bambolea” and “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias. This accomplishes about as much as it sounds like it did: cute looks and lots of musical flirting. By the end of the episode, they’re both watching the clock and waiting until their period of silence is over, rushing into the hall when it ends only to have Mercedes whisked away by her boyfriend. It seems they are deliberately stretching out the inevitable just so it can happen during the Valentine’s Day episode (and it had better – it’s a good story, but it’s not strong enough to be this drawn out).
“The proof’s in the pudding…my pudding sucks.” –Finn
See, Glee? You can still be funny. This borderline disgusting joke works because it’s innocent – remember when that’s what informed your comedy? (Hint: we really liked it that way.) Anyway, Rachel spills the beans about her engagement to Finn while watching Twilight with Kurt and Mercedes and they think both Finn and Rachel are nuts, despite Rachel’s assertion that she knows she and Finn will be together and that he’s part of her journey to stardom.
Kurt is angry that his stepbrother didn’t tell him about the proposal, but he’s more worried that Finn is selling himself short. He tries to show Finn the different colleges in and around New York and notes that if he has to keep the engagement a secret, it’s probably not a good idea. This turns into a discussion about how Finn thinks his future is bleak and that Rachel’s the only bright spot, but Kurt rightfully tells him that he’s special and he does have a future – though I don’t know if pushing him to pursue a career as “the football star who can sing and kind of dance” is really a viable career option. It is however, a good jumping off point for college. It appears that Finn will continue to wrestle with whether or not being engaged to Rachel is a way of giving up on himself or not. Now that Rachel’s on board, let’s all wait for Finn to pull the rug out from under her and crush her tiny, self-obsessed bird of a spirit.
“Mr. Schue, what’s with the shiny coat? I thought you were Kurt.” –Finn
“I’m an authentic Spanish matador.” –Schue
David is showing the glee club the ways of Latin culture, like wearing “Mexican hipster boots,” and Santana asks how Schue plans to defend his Spanish teacher honor. And considering that when he starts working on his challenge song, he has to look up “coversaciòn” in a Spanish dictionary, it’s not looking so great. To make matters worse, when Emma uses her pamphlet about male performance anxiety to try and cheer him up (single-handedly carrying the weight of comedy in this episode) Schue berates her and says he’s doing this to take care of her before saying her pamphlets are stupid. Luckily, Emma doesn’t roll over – she tells him she doesn’t need him to take care of her and storms out.
But before we get a solution, Schue’s manhood takes another hit. Santana sings “La Isla Bonita” with David. How is this not being declared inappropriate? Their dance is far too sexy for a student-teacher-from-night-school relationship. At least David and Schue admit it makes so sense for David to still be at McKinley during the day. But then, it’s time for the train wreck, but to be fair, it’s a deliberate train wreck. Schue sings “A Little Less Conversation” translated into Spanglish with Mike Chang and Brittany dressed as bulls charging around the stage. It’s pretty much the WORST thing ever, but like I said, it was intentional. (And boy, did they hit the mark.) Santana admits she complained to Figgins about Schue; she says that he’s making a joke out of Spanish culture – because he is. And that no one seems to notice because they don’t know any better, and this would be great except that they created this storyline out of thin air to suddenly make Schue bad at his job. He admits he took the job because it was the only open teaching position and Santana makes sure to cap off the conversation by saying he’s a great music teacher. Too bad that doesn’t seem to be an actual job at this school.
Life gets even harder for Schue when Emma’s pamphlet “Taint Misbehavin’” (seriously, how are they getting away with this at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday?) is sold to Ohio State and all the Big 10 football teams. Will’s just had his huevos crushed by Santana, so he has trouble dealing with Emma’s swelling pride. But, because he’s Schue and is incapable of being wrong for very long, he tells Figgins to hire David to teach Spanish and Schue will teach History, a subject he also doesn’t know all that well. (But he can sing, so who cares?) We end the episode with Will handing Emma apology pamphlets and making her a celebratory dinner because she nabbed the tenure position. While I love seeing Emma finally gain a little strength, this ending didn’t feel significant. It was just an event in a string of other events. Maybe the Valentine’s Day theme will help the writers deliver an episode that feels like, well, an episode next week.
Are you getting annoyed with Glee? Are you clamoring for the days when the storylines really grabbed us? Or do you think the show it just as compelling as it ever was? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler