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.
Saddle up, partner: last night on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Jeff Daniels confirmed that the sequel to Dumb & Dumber will begin filming in September. And if I know Harry and Lloyd as well as I think I do, they'll invite us right in for tea and strumpets!
The movie will be released next year, twenty years after the charmingly simpleminded pair played by Daniels and Jim Carrey cruised in the "shaggin wagon" from Providence to Aspen (but not without driving a sixth of the way across the country in the wrong direction). "I’ve seen the script...it’s hysterical," said Daniels. "We’re middle-aged. We’re not pretending we aren’t. We’re middle-aged and we’re still that stupid.” Of course they are.
Now that Daniels has given their return a thumbs-up, I recommend pairing the Farrelly Brothers' Dumb And Dumber To with the soup du jour, or fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti.
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Universal Pictures Seals Deal For 'Dumb And Dumber To'
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When Warner Bros. announced it was dropping the Dumb and Dumber sequel, fans were even more disappointed than they were when the Dumb and Dumber prequel happened. But things are looking up! Universal Pictures has closed a deal for domestic production of the long-awaited sequel, Dumb and Dumber To.
The sequel will bring back the original dummies, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, as well as directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Wolf Of Wall Street financier Red Granite is stepping up to finance the $35 million budget film and sell foreign territories. Warner Bros. will retain a participation stake in the film, but its exit is what finally got this movie going.
The film will be PG-13 like the original, and will once again put Lloyd (Carrey) and Harry (Daniels) on a misguided road trip, this time with Harry seeking his estranged daughter in hopes of earning her kidney for a transplant operation. Production is expected to begin quickly so that Daniels can return to his Aaron Sorkin HBO series The Newsroom. Carrey also has a bank heist comedy in the works with Jared Hess directing and Owen Wilson co-starring.
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CBS has made a badass new hire for its summer series Under the Dome: Dean Norris, Breaking Bad's resident lawman, will play one of the leads in the 13-episode adaptation of the Stephen King book about a small New England town that's mysteriously surrounded by an invisible dome that seals them off from the rest of the world.
Every small town needs a big personality, and Norris' Big Jim is the Buddy Garrity-like schmoozer of Chester's Mill (to put it in Friday Night Lights terms). He's in the local government and a big-shot business owner, so he's got his hand in plenty of the town's affairs. Could he — and other town residents — know more about the mysterious event than they initially let on?
RELATED: TV Tidbits: Mike Vogel Goes 'Under the Dome'
Norris joins former Pan Am pilot Mike Vogel, who plays a former soldier named Barbie who's now wrapped up in some less-than-legal affairs, in heading up the new series.
The series is produced by Steven Spielberg and is scheduled to debut in the summer.
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[PHOTO CREDIT: FayesVision/Wenn]
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Forget Black Swan – Natalie Portman’s real crowning performance is to be found in the romantic comedy No Strings Attached in which director Ivan Reitman asks her to convey sincere unqualified affection for Ashton Kutcher. Portman much to her credit gamely complies and though she may not have the emaciated figure bloody nails and bandaged ankles to tell of her labors the psychic scars must no doubt be just as severe.
Exhibiting strong chick-flick leanings and a rambunctious soft-R comic tone (i.e. lots of F-bombs some menstrual humor and a few shots of Kutcher’s naked ass) No Strings Attached is built around a basic relationship role-reversal: The dude Adam (Kutcher) longs for a deeper lasting commitment; the chick Emma (Portman) insists on keeping matters purely physical. Emma’s motive is a practical one: As a doctor-to-be her busy residency schedule with its 80-hour work weeks and intensive exam preparations precludes a serious relationship. But alas a woman has certain needs (foreplay apparently not being among them) and who better to fulfill them than Kutcher’s non-threatening boy-toy?
Thus a “friends with benefits” arrangement is cemented whereupon the ripcord is to be pulled on the occasion that either of them develops stronger feelings. This does not last long for soon Adam is cloyingly lobbying for escalation. Emma demurs – not out of disinterest we are told but because she’s intimacy-averse and afraid of a broken heart. Why else would she resist a more permanent attachment to someone like Adam?
Perhaps it’s because Adam as played by Kutcher is about as interesting as cabbage. And yet No Strings Attached would have us believe he’s some kind of floppy-haired Albert Schweitzer. This despite the fact that his greatest aspiration in life is to join the writing staff of a High School Musical-esque television series the shallow inanity of which is one of the film’s recurring jokes. In vain support of his cause the filmmakers decorate Adam’s apartment with various props – vintage posters books about 1920s movies a guitar that is occasionally picked up but never actually played – that hint at a depth that Kutcher himself never manifests.
Still Portman sells us on Adam and Emma’s inevitable union with every ounce of her not inconsiderable talent. (And her comic chops are legit – as those who’ve glimpsed her appearances on SNL and Funny or Die can attest.) But she asks too much. And Elizabeth Meriweather’s script while witty and stocked with some keen observations on the evolving nature of relationships in the modern age becomes weighed down by sentiment unbecoming an R-rated comedy not directed by Judd Apatow. In the end Kutcher seals the increasingly contrived deal with the climactic line “I’m warning you: Come one step closer and I’m never letting you go ” (I’m paraphrasing but not loosely) by which time the film's already lost its grip.
Passion, Fahrenheit have some Globes trouble
Even though they were two of the most talked-about films of the year, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 have hit some snags regarding the eligibility for Golden Globes, Reuters reports. Fahrenheit will not be eligible in any Globes categories because it is a documentary, for which there is no separate category, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. does not allow docus to be considered in the top film award categories. Passion, in which much of the dialogue is spoken in Aramaic, also cannot compete for best drama because it is considered a foreign-language film, but can be considered for best foreign film. Nominations for the 62nd annual Golden Globe Awards will be announced Dec. 13, with the winners revealed in a Jan. 16 ceremony to be telecast live on NBC.
Farrell says no thanks to 007 role
You won't be calling Colin Farrell the next James Bond anytime soon. In an interview with Reuters on Sunday to discuss his soon to be released film Alexander, Farrell, 28, was asked about taking on the 007 role, endorsed by the former Bond, Pierce Brosnan, who last week said that Farrell should get the job because "he'll eat the head off them all." Farrell feigned outrage at the thought of becoming the sixth James Bond in the series, joking he was shocked by Brosnan's suggestion and if he got the job, he just might employ an Irish accent to confuse fans of the suave British agent. "The idea of me playing James Bond got into the press, but it is not true. I would not like to do it…they should find someone the audience has no history with," Farrell said. And the hunt is still on.
Pitt visits Ethiopia on AIDS mission
Actor Brad Pitt spent four days in Ethiopia to learn more about AIDS in Africa as part of a fund-raising campaign to combat the disease on the world's poorest continent, a spokesman told The Associated Press Tuesday. The trip was organized by DATA, a Washington-based lobby group co-founded by rock star Bono, which campaigns on Third World trade, debt and HIV/AIDS. Pitt began his first visit to the Horn of Africa country Friday and left late Monday night. "It was a listening and learning visit," DATA spokesman Jamie Drummond told AP.
Burt Reynolds accuses ex-girlfriend of extortion
Burt Reynolds sued his former girlfriend of 10 years, Pamela Seals, alleging she threatened to falsely accuse him of abuse unless he paid millions of dollars in extortion, AP reports. According to the lawsuit, filed Monday in West Palm Beach, Fla., Seals falsely accused Reynolds of yelling at her and stomping on her toes. Seals told the 68-year-old actor she would publicize her allegations if he didn't agree to a hefty settlement that included support for Seals and her mother, and half of Reynolds' Jupiter home. Reynolds' lawyer, Bob Montgomery, said the actor offered to settle the matter for $1 million but Seals refused. He added Seals is not entitled to anything under Florida law because the two were never married.
Ewan McGregor makes musical theater debut
Ewan McGregor, who stars as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, will make his musical theater debut as Sky Masterson in a remake of Guys and Dolls in London's West End, AP reports. Frank Loesser's original Guys and Dolls opened on Broadway in 1950, but next year's revival, which is set to debut in June, will be the first new London production in 23 years. The role of Masterson was made famous by Marlon Brando, who played the desperate gambler in the 1955 Hollywood film starring Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. The show will be McGregor's first on-stage singing role. He previously performed in theater and displayed his singing and dancing talents in the musical Moulin Rouge.
Trump's Apprentice has classroom appeal
Donald Trump's hit reality series The Apprentice is proving to be more than just good TV. AP reports professors from business schools around the nation are including Apprentice tips in their MBA programs. Denise Schoenbachler, chair of Northern Illinois University's marketing department, told The New York Post Monday students in her Marketing Apprentice class competed for scholarship money by selling football tickets and raising money for troops in Iraq, a concept inspired by the show. Trump himself has said he's impressed with his show's classroom appeal at schools such as Babson College in Massachusetts, Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Ohio State University in Columbus.
SAG announces dates
Submissions for the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards close Thursday at 5 p.m., Variety reports.. To be considered, submissions must be made online at Sagawards.org or by calling the SAG Awards office. Actors, meanwhile, are nominated in five film and eight television categories. Nomination ballots will be mailed Dec. 10 and must be returned by Jan. 7. SAG members will receive their final ballots Jan. 11-the same day the nominations will be announced. The winners will be announced during the awards ceremony Feb. 5 at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center. TNT will broadcast the event.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.