Tag Archives: Film

The Wars on the Big Screen: 7 years of Hollywood & GWOT

About two weeks ago my wife mentioned that there was a movie called “Lone Survivor” coming out. She mentioned it to me for two reasons: (1) I love Mark Wahlberg (he is the man), and (2) its a film inspired by a book that I’ve read and own which inspired the film. The film and book tell the story of a real Navy SEAL team mission into Afghanistan in the early phases of the war. So, once I knew the film was coming out soon, I went ahead an added the release date to my calendar, just to remind myself to go watch in case I miss the marketing campaign for it.

Thinking about this film got my mind on a thought tangent. In my head, I started thinking about all the films I had watched that were connected and related to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I realized that the list was long enough to be worth writing down. I ended up diving into Wikipedia and Google tracking down names, release years, etc. I became fascinated by the fact that the extensive list I put together were all films that wouldn’t have existed had the Iraq and Afghanistan wars not happened, which in part are by-products (one could argue) of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

I decided to cut the list down to films released by major American studios with at least some sense of star casting. Why do this? Well, my hypothesis became that we can get a better sense of how much impact the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has had on the film industry by the willingness of major studios and actors to be invest, produce, and act in such film projects. My hypothesis may be flawed, but the truth is that the market for documentaries, B-movies, and foreign films is a much more selective market than what a major American studio is aiming when they invest into a blockbuster.

I decided to break down the list into four categories. Even though I may have missed a few films here and there, this is the list I ended up with given the margins above:

Beginnings: These are films that deal directly and primarily with the events of 9/11 and the immediate impact. They may extent up to the beginnings of the War in Afghanistan. The only two films I have accounted for are the following and both were released in 2006:

WorldTradeCenter (2006)

United 93 (2006)

The Frontlines: These films have plots that put them right in the center of the firefight. They are very military-focused and war-centered. These films show us the minds, souls, and actions of the frontline war fighters. Zero Dark Thirty almost didn’t make it in this category but the fact that OBL is the focus of the film and the depiction of the special operations raid made it “frontline” enough for me. I excluded Act of Valor because it didn’t fit any of my margins above:

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Lone Survivor (2014)

The Homefront: These are films impacted by the war and the deployment of troops. Some of them are comedies; some are love films. Some are psychological thrillers; some are political thrillers. And there are others which are none of the previously mentioned. I debated about including some of these but this is the final list I felt comfortable with:

Home of the Brave (2006)

Lions for Lambs (2007)

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Grace is Gone (2007)

Stop-Loss (2008)

Brothers (2009)

The Messenger (2009)

Taking Chance (2009)

Dear John (2010)

Warrior (2011)

The Lucky One (2012)

The Extension: In many ways, these are the most vague of the films inspired by the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These films could have been made without the mentioned events taking place; however, the writers decided to make the Global War on Terror (GWOT) crucial parts of the plots. These films are inspired by the much wider theatre of operations that the GWOT includes. Zero Dark Thirty could have fallen under this category but I stated above why it didn’t:

The Kingdom (2007)

Body of Lies (2008)

Rendition (2007)

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Green Zone (2010)

Fair Game (2010)

I found it interesting that no major blockbuster is released until 2006 when United 93 and World Trade Center come out in theatres. For those who have followed the wars in detail, you will connect 2006 with one of the toughest and worst years for the troops in Iraq and one of the toughest times back home for the Bush administration and the economy. However, it isn’t until 2008 that a blockbuster is released that dealt directly with combat operations, The Hurt Locker, which ended up winning the Oscar for Best Film over Avatar (thank God). Even though the B-movie market is full of movies about combat ops in Iraq/Stan, the major studios seemed to have refrained from such projects for the most part, possibly not knowing if such films would succeed or fail.

Finally, the Homefront and Extension films haven’t been shy about exploring the war on terror as a topic for inspiration. My conclusion is that these films, even though inspired by the wars, deal with themes and concepts that can exist and do outside the wars. The wars and the deployments are catalysts for the plots and settings that are used, but they aren’t the plots and setting themselves.

You can easily find dozens and dozens of films about World War II, great ones and bad ones. Looking at this list makes me wonder whether we will see a deeper and different exploration of the Global War on Terror as the years go and the major combat operations draw to an end in Afghanistan a year from now.  I welcome any of your thoughts and ideas regarding this post. Thank you for reading.

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Treat Your Soul to Les Miserables

Christmas time always takes on a different shape each year. This year we drove up to see my family in southern Virginia and then drove towards the Shenandoah (but not quite all the way there) to see her family as well. So as you can imagine, a lot of our Christmas time was spent on the road. When we finally got back into town last night, we remembered that we really wanted to watch Les Miserables, the film inspired by the musical, which had been released on Christmas Day. So, even though exhausted and knowing that Les Mis would be an emotional overload, we ate dinner and then left for the movie theatre for the 10:10 PM showing. Oh man, I knew it was going to be a long night.

            I’ve never been a big fan of movie review sites because I feel that in many ways, movie critics are disconnected from the rest of us. Somehow, the movies that people love to watch time and time again are never the best rated. Let’s be honest, how many more times can you watch Inception or Lincoln? Exactly.

            Having said that, even though Les Miserables did not receive the greatest of ratings by the so-called experts, it is a film truly worth watching on the big screen. As we walked out of the theatre, my wife asked me what I thought of the film and I simply couldn’t formulate the phrases and expressions that represented what I felt in my heart. I had just witnessed such an incredible and majestic experience that even as I walked towards our car in the parking lot, my mind and soul were still trapped in the recreation of Victor Hugo’s 19th century France.

            I don’t know what the average American knows of the story in Les Miserables or of the background to the original novel. It is a novel written in 1862 by Victor Hugo that has been made into a film many different times throughout the 20th century. It inspired a famous musical in the 1980s (I believe), with and the musical has now been released as a film, directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, John Adams) and starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anna Hathaway, and Amanda Seyfried. If you haven’t read the novel, you need to read the novel. If you haven’t watched the Broadway musical, you need to watch the Broadway musical. If you haven’t decided that you need to watch Les Miserables on the big screen, then I urge you to reconsider.

            Without giving the plot away to those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Les Mis, even though working with a great range of topics and concepts, deals greatly with the concepts of grace, righteousness, justice, good, redemption, forgiveness, and, yes, God.  Whether through Victor Hugo’s original words or its many different incarnations, Les Miserables never fails to make us reflect on our understanding of grace, of forgiveness, of love, of justice, of good, and of the heart of God. If nothing more, it is introspection into the human heart and how society can break a man only to be restored by the Godly actions of the humble.

            That’s it. I am done. Anymore and I would give too much away, for the Les Miserables is an experience that needs to be lived by each individual, as I hope you will consider doing. As we head from Christmas into the New Year, I pray peace, grace, and love over you are your loved ones.

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Star Wars…or Mickey Mouse & Co.: Galactic Adventures

The news are everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you look and where you read your news. Star Wars is such an icon in 20th-21st century America that the news that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm from George Lucas, at the price of $4 billion. As if that wasn’t enough of a shocker, Disney also released that work is already underway for the development and 2015 release of Star Wars: Episode VII…or Mickey Mouse: Coruscant Adventures.

Alright so we all know Star Wars won’t be about Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. We know. The questions that the fans are asking are centered around the matters of canon. The truth that many people aren’t aware of is that beyond the film, the Star Wars universe is a collection of dozens and dozens of novels and graphic novels series. If it counts for anything, I myself have spent the last six months catching up with the “Fate of the Jedi” series which picks up around 45 years after Return of the Jedi.

The issue with canon isn’t about the canon being sacred or kept from change. It has changed many times. From crazy changes like the day that George Lucas stated that the Clone Troopers would eventually become Storm Troopers to more moderate changes like the way in which the Force is portrayed in The Force Unleashed game series, canon alterations have taken place all throughout the series. However, at the end of the day, Disney will most likely decide to start clean and work on something fresh and free from past mistakes known to the George Lucas team of Lucasfilm, Lucasarts, Lucasbooks, etc.

The other big questions are more focused on the artistic side of the endeavor of launching a new trilogy/series of Star Wars films. Critical questions like who will be the director are already flooding the web. There are already rumors that it won’t even be a trilogy, but a series of character-focused movies in the manner of Marvel’s The Avengers.

Finally, there are some doubts and concerns regarding how this impacts the relationship between Star Wars films (Lucasfilm), Star Wars video games (Lucasarts), and Star Wars books (Lucasbooks) which have always walked together hand-in-hand.

In the end, as fan, I am with George Lucas what he believes is best for the series. Even though I have become attached to many of the events and characters found in the series Post-Trilogy, I also agree that decisions were made and turns were taken along the way that weren’t the best choice for the direction of the Star Wars universe. If this is meant to be a fresh start, then let us pray it is for the best. May the Force be with us all…and Disney.

Is the future uncertain for Star Wars? Then again, the future is always in motion…didn’t some famous say that?

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Here Comes the Boom (A Film Review)

Let me start off this review by stating that it is always a pleasure to watch a Kevin James film. There is something incredibly refreshing about watching a comedy that doesn’t rely on crude or obscene humor to get you from one scene to the next. I am not saying that this is how most comedy films make you laugh, but it’s an element that becomes easy, if not routine, to rely on. Even some of my favorite recent comedies do use some of that comedy I am referring to (The Other Guys, 21 Jump Street). What I want to state is that it is nice to sit down for a movie and not have to ask myself whether I am going to be censoring myself when I quote it later on.

So yes, as you can probably tell, my opinion of Here Comes the Boom is pretty positive and favorable. I won’t too much into the specific plot details because I believe you should go watch it yourself, however, there are several elements in which I would like to expand on.

Here Comes the Boom does a great job at portraying the beginnings of quite a few MMA fighters. I am not saying that most MMA fighters start fighting due to selfless causes, but the truth is that a lot of fighters do come from a great variety of professions (including quite a few teachers). The film does a great job at portraying MMA as a sport in its own regard and not as the gladiatorial-spectacle that a lot of people see it as. This is expected, due to the fact that Kevin James has been one of Hollywood’s greatest fans of MMA and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). So, when it comes to the accuracy of portraying the sport, the path to the UFC, the training fighters go through, among other elements, the film does a good job.

The film has a pretty excellent and very effective cast. The starring roles are taking up by Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, along with the appearance of many others appearing as themselves such as Joe Rogan, Mike Goldberg, Bruce Buffer, Jason “Mayhem” Miller (as “Lucky” Murphy), and even the hated and loved Chael Sonnen.

Here Comes the Boom also tells a beautiful even though simple story. It is a story a personal growth, about learning to live a life beyond our small and self-interested ambitions. Kevin James’ movie is about more than just MMA fighting and the UFC; it is a film about regular people looking outside their comfort bubbles and learning to serve, care, and be selfless in thought and in action. Even beyond the fact that I love MMA, Kevin James’ ability to portray these simple yet important elements through his films, including Here Comes the Boom, is what truly makes this a film worth experiencing–and you also get to take your family to it without risking any awkward moments, because Kevin James is simply better than that.

There are some shortcomings in this film, just like every single film has. The love relationship between Kevin James’ character, Scott Voss, and Salma Hayek’s Bella Flores could have been better developed even though it obviously isn’t the main focus of the story. Overall, the toughest critics state that the film doesn’t contain enough laughs, and that the general story line isn’t strong enough to carry the film beyond the absence of sufficient comedy. In my opinion, that may be true to some extent, but I believe that the element of the film exploring MMA and the main character’s pursuit of a goal beyond himself do make up for nonstop laughter.

Overall, I give Here Comes the Boom 7 out of 10 stars, the loss of 3 stars due to the elements lacking above. However, I have no regrets in going to watch the movie, and, if someone asked me to tag along, I would be more than happy to watch at the movie theatre again.

Peace.

PS: Love the fact that the title comes, in part, from a P.O.D song. How crazy is that?

PPS: Also, for the haters that will say that this movie copies elements of Warrior, be aware that Here Comes the Boom and Warrior were both filmed around the same time and the former was released earlier due to specific circumstances.

Here Comes the Boom

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Things I am looking forward to in the next couple weeks.

It’s been a long time since I have been able to post a lengthy and edifying post on this blog. So, instead I will fill you in on the things that I am looking forward to in the upcoming weeks. Hope some of them excite you to. Peace.

1. India Mission Trip

I can’t give out a lot of details on this; however, all I want to say is that it has been a challenging endeavor trying to fundraise, develop teamwork, and simply grasping the fact that we are going to India in service to God and fellow individuals that are in need.

2. Football..,and more football.

If you know me or if for some reason you have decided to read this blog, then you know that I love football. This upcoming weekend my NC State Wolfpack go up to Maryland to take down the Terps. The following weekend, the Pack travels to Chapel Hill to take on our in-state rivals, the UNC Tar Heels. Yes, I will be a nervous wreck when it comes to sports for the next couple weeks. Just hang in there.

3. Books-to-read

I love reading. I used to mostly read non-fiction (theology, history) but in the last year I have decided to once-again pick up reading fiction books. So I have been reading quite a bit. The following are books I am looking forward to reading in what’s left of this year:

Storyline by Donald Miller

Star Wars: Apocalypse (Fate of the Jedi #9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Games

I leave much of the game stuff to other posts, but yes, I am looking forward to HALO 4 and Assassin’s Creed III which will both be released with a week of each other (oh man).

5. Movies!

So I’m not the kind of person that you should get movie reviews from. I am best friends with individuals who take the film seriously and have basically taken away any merit from my critical film opinion. However, I enjoy movies and TV shows. I am looking forward to the following of each:

Here Comes the Boom (release date Oct. 12th)

Lincoln (November 16th)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 14th)

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