A VETERAN’S DAY MOVIE RUNDOWN

In My Humble Opinion:  There is no way to make a definitive list of, “the best war movies” ever made.  Hell, you can even argue with what constitutes a “war” movie itself.  With that in mind, I humbly submit this list of movies that I believe fit the bill of great war movies or great movies with military themes.  Please feel free to comment below with any movies I may have left off the list that you feel should have made the cut.  Dedicated to all that have borne the battle on this Veteran’s Day.

 

In no particular order:

 

1.  We Were Soldiers

 

2. Full Metal Jacket

 

3. Jarhead

 

4. Glory

 

5. Saving Private Ryan

 

6. Platoon

 

7. Black Hawk Down

 

8. Stalag 17

 

9. The Messenger

 

10. The Deer Hunter

 


Dredd…Let’s Hope For A Sequel

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In My Humble Opinion: Dredd, starring Karl Urban was a violent, gritty adaptation that captured the essence of the comic book character.  As always, I will be up front and honest and say that I didn’t read much Judge Dredd, but was turned onto the character by the god awful movie starring Sylvester Stallone.  The movie was horrible, but the concept was intriguing.  Thank goodness my good friend Travis Becker was a Judge Dredd fan and assured me that the movie was so far off the mark it wasn’t funny.  This led to many conversations between the two of us and lots of research online with regards to the character.

Once the movie Dredd was announced I was pretty stoked to see what it would be all about.  When I first I heard the movie would predominantly take place in one building, a la Die Hard, I was a little disheartened.  I wasn’t sure how the movie would be able to keep the suspense going all while taking place in one building.  Then of course I remembered that the buildings in Mega City One were referred to as “blocks” and were immense structures spanning an entire city block…not to mention 200 stories high.  First viewing I was somewhat split, but upon watching it a second time I really gained an appreciation for it.  Karl Urban seemed to have Dredd down to a T, not to mention he had this perfect chin quality that allowed him to fill the characters helmet perfectly lol.  Another performance you need to be on the look out for is Ma-Ma played by Lena Headey.  If you think she’s bad ass in HBO’s Game of Thrones, you’ll be blown away by her performance in this movie.

The movie was violent sure, but it also had some great cinematic scenes (Ma-Ma being forced to inhale the drug Slo-Mo towards the end of the film springs to mind)  The film unfortunately wasn’t a strong performer at the box office, but has found an audience on Home Video and is now being labeled a “cult film.”  Despite the underwhelming box office results, Dredd received very favorable reviews and currently sits at 78% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Talks of a sequel have been going on since the films release in Sept. 2012 but no final decision has been made as of yet.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the word of mouth and strong following the film has received since being released on DVD / Home Video will garner another installment.  If for anything else, because Karl Urban’s chin is just too perfect to be denied another outing as Judge Dredd!

 

Read More At:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dredd

 


A Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

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By: Joshua Fargason

A Captain America: The Winter Soldier review written by our very own Captain America, Captain Joshua Fargason

 

Josh’s Humble Opinion:  Like many, I have eagerly anticipated Marvel Studios latest release, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (CA:TWS). I’ve been a diehard fan of Captain America since childhood. Having seen the movie, I have to say Marvel has not let its audience down in the least. The latest installment of their “megafranchise” continues to build the momentum built up thus far by its predecessors.

Bottom line up front for those who are wondering: there are two post-credits scenes. If that’s all you were wondering before heading off to the movie, there you go. You’re set. Enjoy!

For those who want to know more, here we go:

I could go on at length about Evans, Johansson, Jackson, & Redford, but for the sake of brevity I will just say they all turned in excellent performances worthy of their caliber. Casting director Sarah Finn and her team did their job well with the entire cast. Standouts, for me, were two new faces in the franchise. Anthony Mackie delivers a very real and human portrayal of a military veteran who continues to serve, both as a Veteran’s Affairs counselor and later as The Falcon. Emily VanCamp’s part, though small in scope for this movie, sets her up for future work in the Marvel universe and she is also involved in what I deem the most heroic moment of the movie. More on that later. One humorous note: the stand-in for Chris Evans is named Jordan Coulson. Just can’t keep a Coulson out of a Marvel movie, I guess.

Director of Photography Trent Opaloch (District 9, Elysium) and Production Designer Peter Wenham (Blood Diamond, The Queen) and their respective teams deserve mention for excellent work that creates a believable world for this conspiracy thriller. Given that there are fantastical elements to the story, it still looks and feels realistic. I suspect re-watching this in the future will yield some pleasant surprises; I missed some dialogue because I was laughing so hard at an unexpected Pulp Fiction reference planted in a scene (see if you notice it toward the end).

The story itself keeps a great tempo. The production team and editor Jeffrey Ford (The Avengers, Iron Man 3) give enough time for great human moments between Cap & the rest of the cast that establish these characters as people without slowing down the pace. One can tell that the characters give a damn about each other throughout. The various scenes between Captain America and the Black Widow set up the multiple levels of tension in that relationship very well. Evans and Johansson’s chemistry create belief that the two characters have worked together and gotten comfortable around each other since we saw them last. Scenes between Cap and Sam Wilson, meanwhile, have a very humanizing effect on the perception of Steve Rogers: he sees himself as just another veteran and relates to other vets as brothers-in-arms, there isn’t any of the celebrity attitude one finds in Tony Stark. Meanwhile, the bits of character we get from Bucky Barnes really leave me wanting more.   While great credit goes to the actors, I feel the directing team and editor deserve accolades for how well they’ve handled these relationships.

I feel great credit for this movie’s excellence goes to fight coordinator Chris Carnel (American History X, Iron Man) and the directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, & Dupree; Community). The fights and action sequences in CA:TWS are BRUTAL. The chief critique I have with hand to hand sequences in movies like the Bourne series is that while they are impressive, they are too fast in action and in the way they are shot to actually follow the story of what is happening in the fight. Not so in this movie: the fight sequences are a completely essential element of character and story development in CA:TWS. One sees from the very beginning just how hard Captain America hits with fist and shield which sets up just how dangerous the Winter Soldier is when they fight. The fights also set up that while Cap is a super-human, he’s still a mortal man who feels a punch and is not bullet proof. There is real danger for the heroes.

Without giving away too much of the story, I do want to mention my favorite moment of the movie had nothing to do with the “supers.” Right at the climax of the story, we see “normal” SHIELD techs & agents (to include Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter) faced with having to decide for themselves whether or not to do the right thing in the face of death. One particular technician becomes the biggest hero in the movie in my opinion because he lacks any sort of superpower in a superhero movie yet still decides to risk death for what’s right. This also leads to my chief critique of the movie: after that point the movie is full of regular humans fighting their hardest to do what’s right and sacrificing for it, but in the end none of them are effectual. It still comes down to just the superheroes. I think having those regular humans make more of a difference makes a greater testament to real heroism. That’s just me, though, and this is a movie about a superhero.

Having said that, CA:TWS is an excellent movie full of some very human moments, great action sequences, and heroism on many scales. It certainly changes the Marvel movie universe on a fundamental level. I believe it is a must-see for anyone interested in film for both the handling of the storytelling and to keep track of how this “megafranchise” beast that is likely to become the new paradigm works out. I’m anxious for the next installment.


Noah Plot Summary Revealed…CAUTION SPOILERS BELOW

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Noah is a young boy, standing on a hill with his father Lamech. Lamech is about to give him the serpent’s skin of the original serpent in Eden, which has been passed down for generations. Suddenly, a large crowd approaches, led by a young king named Tubal-Cain, who wants to make that hill into a mine. Seeing Lamech, Tubal-Cain kills him and takes the serpent’s skin, while Noah runs.

Many years pass. Noah is living with his wife Naameh and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, when he sees a small miracle: a drop of water hits the ground and a flower grows instantly. That night he has a dream where he sees the mountain his grandfather Methuselah lives on, and water covering the earth. He realizes that the Creator is trying to send him a message. He and his family run to visit Methuselah. On the way, they find a group of recently killed humans, and among them, a girl who is still alive, named Ila, and they adopt her. Also, Tubal-Cain’s men chase them, but they are afraid to enter the dark region that is inhabited by Watchers, fallen angels who look like stone golems.

It is recounted that the Watchers are friends with Methuselah because he saved them once. They came to earth to help the humans, but after learning from them, the humans tried to enslave and kill them. They tried to run, and Methuselah helped their escape by fighting the waves of human soldiers with a burning sword.

Noah speaks with Methuselah and receives a seed passed down from the Garden of Eden. He plants the seed on a plain, and an entire forest grows upon it within seconds. This miracle convinces the Watchers that Noah is chosen by the creator. Noah announces that all the wood will be used to build an Ark, and they start to help with the construction work.

Roughly eight years pass. As the Ark nears completion, animals start to leave the forests and walk into the ark, where they are put to sleep by incense that Noah prepares. Meanwhile, the surrounding lands have been running short on food, and the humans, led by Tubal-Cain, are beginning to eat human flesh. A horde of about 200 men, led by Tubal-Cain, approaches the Ark, and Tubal-Cain threatens to storm it, but the Watchers force him to turn back.

Noah realizes that his three sons need wives, and that Ila cannot serve because she is barren. He disguises himself and goes into the human camp in order to find three women, and take them into the ark. At the human camp, he sees humans being slaughtered for food, and some people behaving badly, and intense crowding and filth. He is stunned by this and gives up the effort, and becomes convinced that the Creator wishes for the entire human race to come to an end. Back at the camp, Methuselah blesses Ila and her barrenness is cured.

Shortly before the rains start to drop, Ham decides to go to the camp himself and find a woman. He falls into a pit filled with the dead and encounters a frightened young girl named Na’el. She is willing to go with him, but as they run back to the ark, her foot gets caught in an animal trap. Noah comes to help but sees the human horde coming to raid the ark, so he forces Ham to leave her behind and save himself. Seconds later, the human horde reaches her and tramples her to death as it passes. All of Noah’s family gets in except Methuselah, who chooses to die in the flood. As the ark gets launched, all the Watchers sacrifice themselves fighting the endless human waves. This allows them to return to their original forms and return to their Creator, who has forgiven them. As the flood waters rush toward the ark and his remaining soldiers drown, a wounded Tubal-Cain seizes the opportunity to survive and crawls up a pathway to a high point of the ark, hacking his way inside the vessel where he is eventually found by Ham. The wicked old king plays on Ham’s anger toward Noah for allowing Na’el to die. Outside, the family listens to the dying screams of those outside the ark. His family implores him to let some of them in, as they “have room,” only for a shell-shocked Noah to reply that there is no room for them.

Ila wakes up, feeling ill, and goes to Naameh who deduces that she is with child. At this exact moment, the rains stop completely. Ila says it is because the Creator smiles upon the unborn child. Naameh, Shem, and Ila inform Noah of this, but the patriarch rationalizes that the Creator’s wish to destroy humanity also extends to his own family, who he initially thought would simply die of old age once the flood waters recede. He tells the family that if the child is a boy then he will replace their youngest as the last man, but if a girl is born, he will kill the child upon her birth, much to Ila’s horror. Not truly willing to do such a thing so much as feeling it is a duty to the Creator, a tearful Noah climbs to the top of the ark and asks for the Creator’s counsel. Finding no answer, Noah resolves to do as he told his family. Meanwhile, Tubal-Cain finds aid from the naive Ham (eventually acquiring the boy’s help in a plot to kill Noah) and Naameh makes one final, unsuccessful attempt to dissuade her husband.

Many months pass. Ila, now hugely pregnant, and Shem build a small raft to escape Noah’s plot to kill their child. Noah burns the raft. The shock of this causes Ila to go into labor. With Naameh’s assistance, the terrified young girl gives birth to twin girls. Hearing the babe’s cries, Noah pursues Ila to the top of the vessel. As Ila sings to the crying infants to pacify them before they die, Noah looks upon the girls and decides to let them live.

Tubal-Cain has seemingly manipulated Ham into believing the king is killing Noah for the sake of Ila and Shem’s offspring as well as vengeance for Na’el, and Ham lures Noah to the tail end of the ark on the pretense that the animals have awoken and have begun cannibalizing each other. As Noah and Tubal-Cain engage in a brutal fight, the ark hits a mountain and Tubal-Cain is thrown through the shattered wall of the vessel, being greatly injured. As the king rises and attempts to finish a similarly injured Noah off, a repentant Ham stabs Tubal-Cain in the ribcage, killing him.

As the rest of the family begins making a new life for themselves, Ham decides it is time for him to leave, still angry at Noah for what happened to Na’el. Ila confronts Noah on allowing his grandchildren to survive, telling him that the Creator gave him the choice of whether mankind should be saved or not. When she asks why he didn’t kill them, Noah reveals he had nothing but love for the babies when he first saw them, because he saw the goodness of mankind. Later, the family stands atop a cliff face and Noah blesses them all as the beginning of a new human race. They watch as the Creator sends a rainbow from the sky, covering all of the Earth, signaling his promise to never destroy mankind again.


Gerard Butler To Star In Point Break Remake.

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In My Humble Opinion: It’s not tragic to die doing what you love, but it is tragic that Hollywood seems so fresh out of ideas that it has to yet again recycle a movie that has already been made.  Not sure if you’ve heard yet but the word around the campfire is Point Break will receive its very own Hollywood remake and Gerard Butler will be surfing in to take over the role of bank robbing / Zen surfer dude Bodhi, a role previously filled by Patrick Swayze.  If you check out IMDB, the remake is confirmed and slated for a 2015 release.  As is my typical practice, let me be completely up front; I have nothing against Gerard Butler or the original Point Break itself.

As far as Gerard Butler goes, I think he’s a pretty decent actor that can certainly portray the ultimate bad ass when it comes to action films (300 anybody?  Oh and he was brutal in Olympus Has Fallen).  In fact, when the rumor was circulating that he could be stepping in to take over as Snake Plissken in a planned Escape From New York remake, I found myself cautiously optimistic (the cautious part was more because of the remake itself not the casting).  Low and behold this was not meant to be and rumors continue to circulate on who will eventually fill the role once filled by Kurt Russell (personally, Josh Holloway seems like a no-brainer).

As far as Point Break goes, let’s be honest; the original 1991 film directed by Kathryn Bigelow isn’t exactly Oscar material but still a pretty entertaining movie nonetheless.  Patrick Swayze embraced the role he was given and received acclaim for his portrayal of Bodhi.  And let’s be honest, any movie in which you can have Keanu Reeves pretending to be a dim-witted surfer dude is obviously playing to the actor’s strengths.   That being said, how many more remakes is Hollywood going to subject us to?  I think that’s probably my biggest apprehension when it comes to the remake genre itself.  There’s been so many remakes that don’t hold a candle to the original (there is the occasional success) it’s almost insulting that Hollywood keeps churning them out.  I’ve always said that you don’t have to literally remake the movie; just take the plot and change the environment and abracadabra you’ve got yourself a new movie.  I mean after all, didn’t Hollywood “remake” this once already but instead of using surfboards it used cars and called it Fast and the Furious?


Holiday Season Viewing…Memories And Entertainment

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In Travis’ Humble Opinion:  The holidays are a special time of year for many people, a time full of friends, family and good cheer.  Everyone has their own traditions from big meals to tree decorating, all tied to certain sights, sounds and smells that recall the happy times we’ve spent around yuletide.  For me, the scent of fresh pine or a baking pumpkin pie, the twinkle of multi-colored lights strung about people’s homes and the gentle piano notes immediately recognizable as Vince Guaraldi’s score for the Charlie Brown Christmas special, all transport me magically to those few weeks at the end of the year when everyone just seems to be in a better mood, at least when they’re not elbowing each other in the head for the best deals at Wal-Mart on Black Friday.
Something that often gets left out of nostalgic ramblings (like this one) about this time of year, is the quality time we spend in front of television and movie screens catching up with our favorite holiday-themed programming.  People are so busy trying to DO things around Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year, I think they often try to sweep under the rug these more mundane holiday rituals, even though a great many people take part.  Sure, sitting and watching your favorite Christmas cartoons isn’t as beautiful a memory as sitting in front of a roaring fire, sipping egg nog and singing Christmas carols with the family…but maybe it’s a more realistic one for most people.
To my mind, there are essentially 3 categories of memorable holiday viewing.  The animated Christmas special, the Christmas movie, and the hyped-up-non-holiday-but-aired-during-the-holidays-for-big-ratings, special TV event.  They all have a place in our hearts and the importance and quality of each has declined quite a bit over the years, but here’s a rundown of a few that I enjoy from each category.
Perhaps the most sacred of all holiday TV-watching remains the animated special.  Once upon a time, these specials were just that, special.  They aired on the three (at the time) major networks and were shown once a year.  If you missed How the Grinch Stole Christmas to go watch Aunt Sally and Uncle Bert get hammered on holiday cheer at their annual Christmas party, you weren’t seeing it again until next Christmas and that was almost too much to bear.  Certain shows were absolute must-see viewing for me.  From Charlie Brown to Frosty, from Rudolph to the afore-mentioned Grinch, I always made sure that my parents knew when these were set to air and planned my holiday activities accordingly.  More than any of the others, though, Mickey’s Christmas Carol was utterly essential for the holidays.  It doesn’t get as much love today and it’s a lot tougher to find (and nearly impossible with its original accompanying cartoons featuring Donald, Chip N Dale and Goofy), probably because of the scene featuring a cigar-smoking Pete sending Scrooge to hell for a minute or two, but it’s absolutely a beautifully-made adaptation of the Dickens classic.  I also always looked out for a less well-known entry into the canon, Twas the Night Before Christmas, a musical number featuring some clock-repairing mice and a strangely vindictive Santa Claus.  Nowadays, ABC Family shows most of these specials ad nauseam and a new spate of more recent features that mostly exist as some sort of marketing tie-in to some movie that’s coming out in theaters (or came out last year and is hitting DVD this year).  I would be remiss, however, in not mentioning the series of American Dad Christmas episodes that have aired over the duration of that series.  They’re probably the best episodes of the series and easily among the best new Christmas content out there.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with a solid holiday movie.  I’ve seen Christmas Vacation so many times that the scenes are starting to meld with my own memories.  You have the classics like It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, and the vaguely holiday-related films like Gremlins and Die Hard (or even more violent affairs like Home Alone).  Probably the modern classic of our time, though, is Will Ferrell’s tour-de-force, Elf.  Some pretty funny stuff, mixed in with just enough seasonal sentiment makes Elf a perfect movie to watch with the family after a tough day of shopping or seeing relatives.  To this day, I always answer my phone, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” and turns of phrase like “son of a nutcracker!” feel absolutely natural this time of year.  Predictably, there haven’t been many classics to add to the lexicon lately.  Clunkers like Fred Claus and Four Christmases (sorry Vince Vaughn, you’re still money) don’t even hold a candle to such gems as Jingle All the Way…I guess.  Honorable mention to Scrooged, yet another classic retelling of A Christmas Carol with the incomparable Bill Murray.
The last category is perhaps the toughest to nail down.  The super-hyped holiday seasonal release of X movie or TV special, be it a mini-series, TV movie, whatever.  Essentially, the concept is this.  Movie studios like to release movies around the holidays.  People are off of school or work and they need a break from holiday stuff and especially from their insufferable families, so they go out and see a movie for a just a couple hours to themselves.  That’s the theory, anyway.  It used to be more prevalent in TV as well, I assume based on the same idea that people just have some free time to dedicate to entertainment they might not otherwise possess.  Just as an example, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings.  Neither film series have the least bit to do with the holidays, but both were released primarily during the peak holiday season and were billed as “the holiday event of the season.”  Despite the fact that there is no relation between holidays and these movies, the two things are wedded to some degree nonetheless and I know I personally associate them.  Going back several years and over to TV, there are two examples worth noting.  Both the Rankin and Bass animated version of the Hobbit (1977) and the Ewok Adventure (1984) were released on Thanksgiving weekend.  The Hobbit predates me just a bit, but I remember anxiously anticipating the Ewok Adventure and I remember the Hobbit being re-shown around the same time.  Again, studios essentially using the holidays to promote non-holiday content and unintentionally (or intentionally, who knows) wedding the two.  Seems like you see this less and less, although I’m certain the advertising dollars are more available than ever.  There just doesn’t seem to be as much “event” viewing as there used to be, probably because the amount of content is so much greater.
So, I guess what I’m saying is this:  Don’t let anyone tell you to get off the couch during this season and engage in more holiday-themed chaos.  Sit yourself down and cozy up with the TV and movies you remember and relax for a change.  Let Clark Griswold, Charlie Brown and what the hell, Harry Potter, make your memories for you.  If you’re like me, these pieces of entertainment lore are part of your holiday-consciousness – embrace them!

 


Man of Steel: Superman’s Aversion Toward Killing

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In My Humble Opinion:  Man of Steel serves as an origin story for the Superman character which provides background for his aversion toward killing.  I’ve read so many posts, comments, rants and raves from people about how pissed off they were that in the new Man of Steel movie Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent ends up (SPOILER) killing General Zod in their final battle.  Superman has Zod, excuse me General Zod, in a headlock and is doing his best to keep Zod from killing a human family.  Superman is left with no other choice but to break General Zod’s neck in order to save the family.  Obviously, after the act has been committed, Superman is pretty upset with what he had to do.

My question to all those people who are upset at how the final battle went down is this.  Taking into account that this film reboots the franchise and serves as an origin story; couldn’t this be the moment in Superman’s history in which he establishes/realizes his disdain toward killing?  There’s no other part in the movie that discusses the morality or consequences of taking another life (a lot of people know Superman is against killing because of the comics).  As a stand-alone movie, which will surely spawn sequels/spin offs and develop the character further, the fact that he killed Zod seems to be in line with the rest of the film.  Then again, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.