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.
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.
Walters to get bumped in July
ABC is planning to bump 20/20 with Barbara Walters from Fridays to Wednesdays beginning July 25, rather than in September as previously indicated, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday. Curiously, it will be replaced for several weeks by the ABC magazine spin-off 20/20 Downtown, according to the newspaper. (Downtown is due to return to the air on June 11 in its old Monday-night time period.) In September, the drama Once and Again will move into the 10 p.m. Friday slot. Walters has previously expressed her dismay over the network's decision to move her program, which has been a fixture in the Friday time period for 15 years.
Nude news cut on "GMA"
Plans to air an interview with "body paint artist" Filippo Ioco and present some of his models on Good Morning America were abruptly canceled at the last moment last Wednesday following objections by GMA co-host Charles Gibson, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. The newspaper said Gibson voiced concern about the segment at a meeting prior to the show and that producer Shelly Ross and co-anchor Diane Sawyer concurred. Ross told the Post that she had agreed to book Ioco on the show after she had seen a segment of the syndicated Ripley's Believe It or Not!, featuring Ioco and his models, in which viewers said they could not tell that the models were not wearing real bikinis. "But you know what?" Ross told the Post, "You could tell the difference a little bit." Ioco said that he was told about a half hour before airtime that he and his models were off the show because "some senator did something in Washington" that had to be covered instead.
"The young" and the clearest
CBS, which already produces 17 of its 18 primetime dramas and comedies in the high-definition format -- more than any other network -- said Tuesday that it will also begin producing the daytime soap The Young and the Restless in HDTV. The first Y&R episode in the HDTV format is due to air on June 27.
was "Survivor" producer a friend of Rudy?
An additional examination of the deposition given by former Survivor contestant Dirk Been in connection with the lawsuit filed by the producers of the reality series against another contestant, Stacey Stillman, suggests that producer Mark Burnett was a longtime friend of Rudy Boesch, another contestant, and advised Boesch on how best to play the game. In the deposition, Been commented: "[Rudy] just said, 'Hey, me and Burnett, we're friends.' He said it to me privately and he said it to the group. It's not something Rudy tried to hide or was ashamed of in any way." News reports said on Tuesday that Burnett and Boesch met in 1996 when Boesch was part of a Navy Seals team that competed on Burnett's Eco-Challenge series, which airs on the Discovery Channel. Been also indicated during the deposition that Burnett advised Boesch on strategy during the Survivor contest. Following the Survivor series, Boesch was hired by Burnett to host his next reality series, Combat Missions, set to debut on the USA Network in the fall.
New, improved "big brother" returning in July
CBS, which drew respectable, if not the phenomenal ratings it had hoped for when it ran its original Big Brother series last season, announced Tuesday that it will bring back the reality game show on July 5 -- with a "new, improved format." Instead of airing the series six nights a week for a half-hour a night as it did then, the network will now carry it on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for one hour each night. Instead of 10 contestants, there'll be twelve. Even the music is being tweaked. Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes, writing in Wednesday edition, began describing some of the format changes, then interrupted herself in mid-description with the comment, "Oh, forget it, you don't need to know what's going on. It's a peep show, OK?"
Shower scene may get "Big Brother" contestant fired
Penny Ellis, a contestant on the British version of Big Brother may lose her job as a teacher after she was seen momentarily nude as she stepped from a shower on the TV show. Headmistress Cauther Tooley of the Sarah Bonnell School in Stratford told the BBC, "If she chooses to behave in a lewd manner, she will have made the choice to leave the school." She added, however, that she had not seen the controversial scene herself. "I've only heard about it. I understand that it was an accident and the towel slipped." Britain's Channel 4 network, which carries the reality series, later broadcast an apology for showing the bathroom scene.
A memorable Memorial Day
With outstanding ticket sales for Disney's Pearl Harbor, DreamWorks' Shrek, and Universal's The Mummy Returns, the Memorial Day weekend produced a memorable box-office record of $186 million, beating last year's record of $184.6 million, according to The Associated Press. But unlike last year, when five films competed strongly at the box office (headed by Mission: Impossible 2, which grossed 71.8 million), the top three this past holiday weekend accounted for 80 percent of the total gate. "It's really the strength of this handful of films that opened within the last few weeks that propelled this record-breaking weekend," Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told AP Tuesday.
Could "Pearl Harbor" have earned $100 million?
Leading the box office was Pearl Harbor with $75.2 million. Although some analysts had forecast last week that the film would become the first to top the $100-million mark in its debut, Disney officials pointed out that given its three-hour running time, such a feat would have been impossible. The studio claimed that the film played to sell-out crowds everywhere. "What greater compliment to a filmmaker [than] to know his show is sold out show after show after show," Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane told Bloomberg News. But, as New York Daily News critic Jack Mathews pointed out Wednesday: "Multiplexes are not limited to how many theaters they can use. You can be sure that if lines are around the block, screens will be added to accommodate them." Mathews estimated that, while Disney claimed the movie was "officially" showing on 3,214 screens, the actual number was more like 6,000 (a figure that might explain the poor showing of all but the top films). Solomon Smith Barney entertainment analyst released a report Tuesday predicting that Pearl Harbor will eventually gross between $200 million and $250 million domestically.
The top 10 films over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Pearl Harbor, Disney, $75.2 million, ($75.2 million); 2. Shrek, DreamWorks, $55.2 million, ($111.8 million); 3. The Mummy Returns, Universal, $19 million, ($170.7 million); 4. A Knight's Tale, Sony, $9.1 million, ($44.3 million); 5. Angel Eyes, Warner Bros., $6.2 million, ($18.5 million); 6. Bridget Jones's Diary, Miramax, $4.2 million, ($62.4 million); 7. Along Came a Spider, Paramount, $2.1 million, ($70.6 million); 8. Memento, Newmarket, $2 million, ($14.5 million); 9. Spy Kids, Miramax, $1.3 million, ($105.2 million); 10. Blow, New Line, $1.24 million, ($51.6 million)..
"Town and Country" is worst flop in movie history
With New Line's Town and Country virtually pulled from release after earning only $6,712,451 in four weeks, the $80-million film now ranks as the biggest flop in movie history, FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman observed Wednesday. It succeeds the 1998 Kevin Costner starrer, The Postman.
Writer wants to know how much "Roger Rabbit" really made
The author who wrote the novel on which Disney's 1988 animated feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit was based has sued the studio, demanding that it produce an accounting of merchandise revenue related to the film. In his lawsuit, novelist Gary K. Wolf does not name a monetary figure but asks only that he be permitted to audit the studio's books related to the film.
Jackie Chan to star in Hong Kong's most expensive film
Jackie Chan has announced that he will star in an epic Mandarin-language film for Hong Kong's Golden Harvest Studios. With a budget of $78 million, it will be more than twice as costly as the most expensive film previously produced in the Asian film center. Titled The Art of War, it is to be based on the 2,000-year-old writings of Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu. As reported by Screen Daily, the online edition of the British trade publication Screen International, Chan will also serve as executive producer. In addition, the actor said that he has agreed to appear in what Golden Harvest is now calling Untitled Jackie Chan Action Adventure, to be filmed in English.
U.K.'s equity prepares to negotiate with producers
The British actors' union, Equity, is sounding tougher than its American counterpart as it prepares to enter into contract-renewal talks with British film producers on Friday. In a statement, Equity, which has 36,000 members, said Tuesday: "The cream of British talent has sent a stark message to U.K. film producers -- pay us properly or face a dispute. ... If these talks fail, Equity is bound to consider escalating the dispute." The actors have indicated that when they meet with negotiators for the Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television, they will demand what appears to be the equivalent of residual payments. Currently they receive a flat fee.