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.
S3E5: A Community Halloween is term that’s come to hold a certain meaning – and yes, I realize there have only been two Community Halloween episodes before this one. It’s a term that holds the promise of sheer insanity, brilliance and Annie doing some sort of innocent sexpot routine. The Season One Halloween episode is what signaled the fact that this little sitcom was a show beyond our wildest expectations. The Season Two Halloween episode gave us a zombie apocalypse and Chang dressed as Peggy Fleming hooking up with Shirley the Good Witch in the Greendale bathroom. So what does Season Three have in store for us? Campfire stories, as only Community and each of its insane characters could tell them. And does it work? Perhaps only if you love each and every one of these characters as disturbingly fervently as I do, but if you’re reading this, I’ll bet you’re in that boat too.
“Like a Dorito?”-Jeff
“A sociopathic Dorito. A Cool Ranch lunatic!”-Britta After running her set of psych test scantrons through the scanner, Britta finds marks that indicate one of her study group mates has homicidal tendencies. He grand idea to find out which one (since the tests were taken anonymously) is to throw a spectacularly lame party and tell ghost stories to see who reacts like a sociopath. Of course, they’re all insane, so this goes over well.
First, Britta tells her sad little scary story about “a guy with a hook thing on his hand or something.” And when the hook hand guys kills Jeff-douche-guy from the story, she asks Abed how it made him feel – this launches the format for the entire episode (imagine that, Abed launching an episode theme). His “feelings” are all based on Britta’s lack of storytelling ability, which he attempt to remedy in his own sterile story in which everything is explained – down to the price on the rental cabin – and all precautions are taken and nobody dies. It’s not Abed.
Annie, disappointed by Abed’s boring tale, tells her own story next. At first it’s all just a little too predictably Twilight-esque. Annie’s a school teacher seduced by Jeff the Vampire, who keeps Britta in the closet as a Vampire Slut to snack on when he’s feeling peckish – she’s “fine with this. The music swells and we roll our eyes when Jeff-Vampire asks her to teach him to read and she looks at him longingly. And just as we think this is going to get mushy, Jeff springs on Annie and she turns into a werewolf. All we know of the rest of the tale is Annie’s visceral, stomach churningly violent description. She explains it away as adding flavor the story and is thus not the sociopath – but was anyone else still a little worried? (Besides Britta, because who cares? Amirite?)
“It’s Halloween, if you’re going to tell a scary story, you’ve got to give it a little texture.” –Annie
“Wasn’t that great.” -Troy
Not to be outdone – and upset that Britta’s concern that Annie is homicidal is unwarranted praise for her story – Troy tells his own little tale. In it, he and Abed are fighter pilots and Pierce is a crazy, old, racist doctor. He sews Abed and Troy together, but it just makes them able to communicate through ESP and they destroy him with their mind powers (which apparently come standard with ESP these days). In turn, they experiment on Pierce, giving him butt/boobs on his chest, but giving him feet for hands so he can’t touch his “boobs,” which is some evil genius stuff right there.
Upset that he was made evil (and also lame) in Troy’s story, Pierce conjures one of his own. He’s some sort of pseudo Hugh Hefner with Annie, Shirley and Britta as his harem. His evening of drinking “post coital expensive brandy” is interrupted by Troy and Abed as the most ridiculous pair of criminals you can imagine – though Troy really takes the cake as usual. I’m not really sure what happens after they burst in though – I think Pierce kills them with his giant penis, but it’s Pierce so I think it’s best if we don’t ruminate on this too much.
Finally, to clean up the storytelling session after that X(or is that even an applicable letter for what that was) rated report, Shirley gave us her version of something scary: The Rapture. I would be annoyed at the timeliness (the world ended last Friday in case you forgot), but it’s carried off so well I can’t. The gang, minus Pierce and Shirley, is partying it up in some crack den cabin with terminology no human uses. I especially like the fact that Shirley imagined Britta pouring a tub of weed on her chest in order to smoke it with Jeff replying, “That’s my kind of pot-bong.” Finally the locusts, tornadoes and frogs come – Britta braves them because “she’s lived in New York,” chop busted fellow adults, chop busted. Finally, the Devil, in the form of Dean Pelton in a K-Mart “Little Devil” costume comes to torture them all. Shirley—er I mean not Shirley because this is just a story not about real people—comes back briefly to say goodbye before the Dean-Devil comes after everyone with a chainsaw yelling “Gay Marriage!” Of course, Shirley. Of course.
“You ruined a Britta party. That’s like letting poop spoil.” –Troy
Side note: does anyone else love how one episode Troy is enamored of Britta and the next week he’s back to calling her things like “the opposite of Batman?”
Anyway, after that tale everyone is ready to leave. Britta stops them by spilling the beans about the test and says if they don’t find out who it is, terrible things will happen. She continues to describe those various possible things in great detail which makes everyone think she is the psycho.
Jeff, trying to reassume the dad role from seasons past, tells a cute little story about the gang getting attacked by Chang, the hook thingy killer, and the group diffusing the situation by asking him what’s wrong and giving him hugs. This is too nice for Jeff, he’s clearly the sociopath, right? Well, it turns out none of them are because Britta Britta-ed up the tests and scanned them upside down. Upon rescan it turns out they’re all insane except for one – now that makes more sense. When they leave the room, onscreen labels tell us who’s test was whose, and I wish they hadn’t. If we, as good fans, thought long and hard about it, we’d know that Abed was the sane one. We already know that. I wish it hadn’t been spelled out on those tests – and I felt like it was a pretty atypical move for the series.
So why did this giant mess work? Because each of these stories is so perfectly tailored to our character’s psyches and personalities. (And Britta’s Shirley impression in the Rapture story certainly didn’t hurt.) As an episode, it was a little winding and erratic, but as something stalwart Community fans can enjoy, it was a solid hit.
Ross from Friends
Episode: "The One With The Halloween Party"
Why it's so great: Get it? Sputnik? Spudnik? Potato space station? It's so perfectly nerdy we could stop here. (But we won't.)
Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation
Episode: "Greg Pikitis"
Why it's so great: It's Tom Haverford, the greatest wannabe baller on television dressed as his idol and doing a terrible, but zealous, impression. Perfection.
Troy from Community
Why it's so great: It's a toilet seat cover that says "Dracula." It's so lazy it comes back around to brilliant. Plus, Donald Glover shirtless is never bad.
Fez from That 70s Show
Episode: "Too Old To Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die"
Why it's so great: It's Fez in stockings and a pearl necklace completely misunderstanding the point of his character. Enough said.
Jim from The Office
Episode: "The Koi Pond"
Why it's so great: It's obstinate and sarcastic, it builds on his original lazy costume (three hole punch Jim), and he's so lovable he can get away with it.
Haley from Modern Family
Why it's so great: This is what Haley wears when her mother says her other costume is too slutty. This is insulting to the word conservative...and Mother Theresa...and charity -- which is also why it's so hilarious.
The Three Stooges
Uncle Jesse, Uncle Joey and Danny from Full House
Episode: "It's Not My Job"
Why it's so great: Honestly, it's just stupidly cute -- just like everything else on that show.
Barney from How I Met Your Mother
Episode: "Slutty Pumpkin"
Why it's so great: This is how I imagine Barney sees himself on a daily basis, so of course that who he dresses as for Halloween.
Chang from Community
Why it's so great: Jeff guesses Chang's costume, "Kristi Yamaguchi?" to which Chang responds, "Peggy Fleming. You're racist! Just been proven racist by the racist prover." So Chang. So perfect.
Michael and His Other Head
Michael Scott from The Office
Why it's great: Michael Scott with an extra paper mache head. Comedy gold.
Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj from The Big Bang Theory
Episode: "The Middle Earth Paradigm"
Why it's great: Four nerds arguing over matching super hero costumes, plus Raj's idea that they could walk in a straight line so they look like the Flash moving really quickly is too solid to ignore.
Phantom of The Opera
Charlie from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Episode: "Who Got Dee Pregnant?"
Why it's great: "He eats theater people!" "No, he doesn't." "I think he might."
President Obama on SNL
Episode: Season 33, Episode 4
Why it's great: I think that's pretty obvious.
S2: E6 I’m not even going to try to contain my excitement over this week’s episode of Community. It had everything I love: Halloween costumes, tacos, zombies, creepy music (ABBA), and Troy without a shirt. (Sorry dudes, we do spend a lot of these episodes talking about Annie’s boobs, so I figure it’s only fair that I get to lust after Donald Glover for a bit.) Oh, and did I mention it was narrated by George Takei? As in Sulu from the original Star Trek? Yeah, it was just that cool.
After a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque intro from George Takei, the scene opens on Greendale’s Halloween party. Pierce is dressed as the Shatner- variety James T. Kirk (maybe someone told him Takei would be narrating), Jeff is his handsome self as David Beckham (complete with $6,000 suit), and the dean is dressed as what I assume will this year’s most popular costume – Lady Gaga. After downing several “tacos” Jeff spills the beans (ha! Get it? Because they’re eating tacos? Like Mexican food? Okay, I’ll stop) and it turns out they’ve been eating military rations from an army surplus store. Yuck. Britta as a T-Rex/ Dragon-turtle points out that the dean’s endless loop of ABBA songs is occasionally interrupted by his personal voice memos (including one reminding him to check out Human Centipede.) Damn, he’s creepy. Shirley is once again in a “dangerously ambiguous” costume – Annie dressed as Little Red Riding hood hasn’t solved the mystery but she does warn them NOT to call Shirley Miss Piggy. (Of course, now that’s all they can see.) Troy and Abed have a joint costume from Alien, Troy as Ripley in a power loader and Abed as an alien (he really commits to the costume, it’s awesome), but when Troy fails to pick up girls in his yellow frame, he no longer wants to play Abed’s nerdy games. But the main problem is the dean’s tacos; Pierce and many others are starting to get ill after eating. Just when Annie’s friend the doctor (in a banana suit) is making a case for food poisoning, Pierce grabs Starburns and tried to eat his arm. Yep, definitely not food poisoning. Try zombies, glorious zombies.
Before everyone starts to notice that the school is being taken over by zombies (oh, it’s no big deal), Troy ditches his Alien-inspired costume for something a little more lady-friendly. He comes back from the bathroom wearing little more than a toilet seat cover with the word “Dracula” written on it, leaving Abed alone in his nerdiness. He’s a “sexy Dracula” – DUH. Meanwhile, the zombie virus is taking hold of the infected students and the dean elects to call the surplus store where he got the “taco meat” to complain. Apparently, it was not taco meat. Nope. It was some top secret toxic waste – how dumb is this guy? He’s patched in to an officer from the army who commands him to quarantine the zombies for 6 hours until the army can swoop in and fix everything. That’s one hell of a time window. Who do they think they are? The cable guy?
Meanwhile, shit’s starting to get crazy. Just as Annie suggests they evacuate calmly, all hell breaks loose, zombies attack, the dean locks everyone in the library, the study group fends off zombie attackers and barricades themselves in the study room as ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” plays jauntily in the background. God, I love this show.
Before they finally seal off the room, Doctor Banana wants to double check that everyone managed to escape the attack without getting bitten. (And he totally has a bite on his ankle that he’s hiding. Bastard.) He also explains that the infected people will develop high fevers and that in a matter of hours, the zombified students’ brains will overheat and turn to mush. No longer the undead, they’ll just be plain ol’ dead. They figure out a plan: if they can get to the thermostat and turn up the AC, they can break the fever and kill the virus. But nope, too late. Doctor Banana’s speech goes all drunken undead dude and Britta’s not far behind. The remaining group tries to escape the newest zombies, but Annie gets taken. Chang and Shirley get separated from Jeff, Abed, and Troy and barricade themselves in the bathroom. As they hold the door shut, Chang notices that Shirley’s not Miss Piggy, she’s Glenda the Good Witch. In turn, Shirley notes that she loves Chang’s Peggy Fleming costume and he’s happy to hear that she’s not racist (because everyone else assumed he was an Asian figure skater like Michelle Kwan). BOOM. The unthinkable happens – a Shirley-Chang hook up. Give me a second while I pick my jaw up off of the ground.
Troy, Abed, and Jeff find themselves in the basement under siege from a crazy cat that’s inexplicably being launched (or flying on its own?) across the room. Once they get past the crazy cat, Troy and Abed notice a window for their escape. Unwilling to mess up his precious suit, Jeff insists they use the door. Dammit Jeff, have you never seen a zombie movie? Of course, he opens the door, zombies flood in overtaking him and stretching out his super swanky clothes as Troy and Abed run towards the window. With nothing to climb on, to reach the opening, Abed elects to hoist Troy up so he can make Abed proud and be the first black man to survive a zombie attack. (Abed would know, he is a film nerd after all.) Troy doesn’t want to leave his bestie, and as he’s about to escape yells back at Abed ,“I love you.” And as any movie nerd should, Abed responds like Han Solo did to Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, saying “I know” as he’s overtaken by a pile of undead students. (Hold on while my nerdy side does a mini fist pump.)
Now Troy’s the only uninfected guy left. He returns to his power loader costume, bursting into the library and punching out zombies to reach the thermostat and save the day as ABBA's "Mamma Mia" plays. Gotta love that juxtaposition. As he trudges through the library, he takes out all the zombie versions of his friends until he reaches Abed. He hesitates, and in a final ironic blow his zombified best friend is the one who finally bites him. He manages to crawl to the thermostat and push the button (stopping for a second to take note of Jeff who’s still poking at his blackberry and “still cool as a zombie”) before finally taking full zombie form and joining the rest his groaning, grey friends. Damnit. It’s over, right? Everyone’s a zombie.
But no, as ABBA’s “Fernando” starts to swell, the AC starts to flow and the zombies start to sense a slow return to normalcy – Jeff goes from slapping at his phone to getting right back to sending texts and emails. Just then, the army arrives, ready to “dose these suckers.” Yeah, I don’t know what that means. The two army officers show up wearing black suits and sunglasses at night, but thank God that one of the underlings interrupts them before they can follow through on what was sure to be a Men In Black reference.
After they dosed the suckers, everyone wakes up in the library, bandaged and confused. No one remembers anything that happened, and the army officers tell everyone that the party was mass-roofied. (Chang is disappointed that he wasn’t the mastermind behind it all. He would. Creep.) George Takei closes it out with narration that has nothing to do with the episode, but might benefit you if your name is Kevin.
It’s hard to imagine that the tag could even come close to the Halloween episode that I can only describe as 22 minutes of pure zombie awesomeness, but Troy finding a voicemail that was left during the zombie attack after the army’s erased his memory. Watch and enjoy.