“Lone Survivor” (Action/Biography: 2 hours, 1 minute)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster
Director: Peter Berg
Rated: R (Violence, profanity, gore and thematic elements)
Movie Review: Based on the book by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson, this photoplay chronicles the attempts of four men to stay alive after their mission to capture or kill notorious al Qaida leader Ahmad Shahd in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province is compromised. June 2005, Lt. Michael Murphy (Kitsch), Luttrell (Wahlberg), Danny Dietz (Hirsch) and Matt “Axe” Axelson (Ben Foster) encounter three mountain herders. They capture the Afghans, but they decide to let them go. Within no time, Ahmad Shahd’s men are pursuing the four military men through the forests of a mountainous terrain. The Navy SEALs must fight to survive.
Peter Berg’s script is one long running gunfight with plenty of heroics, too. While the gunfight scenes are graphic, excessive at points and make up most of the film, they are a neat outlook into the brave work men and women in uniform perform everyday. That is most notable here.
The film also shows the brotherhood of four men in an amazing manner. They suffer bullet wounds, fractures from falling from high cliffs and other bruises, yet they mange to continue fighting and supporting each other. This association is unique. Too bad, the film did not delve deeper into this form of patriotism. Their commitment to each other and their mission are intriguing.
Middle Easterners have become the new Russians in films as the evil doers. However, this film shows that honorable people exist everywhere. Marcus Luttrell owes his life to an Afghan man and his village that protected the wounded soldier at the expense of their lives and property. This is a very potent part of the film. More scenes like this would be nice. As an alternative, the film jumps back to gunfight scenes that supposedly did not happen, according to Luttrell.
“Lone Survivor” takes a number of liberties with Luttrell’s and Robinson’s book, but it remains a worthy film. It is heavy on detailing a story in the sense of getting from A to B, while missing moments that could make it more personable. The film misses some key dramatic moments at this point. Director-writer Berg should have taken a few more liberties to make the fictional moments he added more dramatic at least.
Still, it inspires in a natural manner that works well. Stay through the end credits for pictures of the actual people involved and more of their amazing story.
Grade: B (Courage, duty and honor are all present and worthy.)
“Her” (Science Fiction/Drama: 2 hours, 6 minutes)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Scarlett Johansson
Director: Spike Jonze
Rated: R (Nudity, profanity, sexual content)
Movie Review: “Her” is the best original screenplay of 2013’s movies. It is another creative endeavor from the mind of Spike Jonze. He gave audiences “Being John Malkovich” (1999) and “Adaptation” (2002). If nothing else, Jonze always provides entertaining films that stretch the imagination.
Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is a writer for BeautifullyWrittenLetters.com. He is a single man recently separated, who spends his time playing video games and contacting people through social media Internet sites. He installs an artificial intelligence operating system on his computer named Samantha (voiced nicely by Johansson). An intuitive program, Samantha becomes the answer to all Twombly’s needs. Over days, Twombly becomes infatuated with Samantha, the voice he hears. Man and a machine begin an intimate relationship.
Plenty of silly moments exist with this tale. Some are adolescent in nature. A holographic video game character, Alien Child, curses in a childlike manner. The character is a somewhat surprising addition to this film that otherwise provides a fine drama. However, these comical moments are funny and add to the underlying message this film conveys regarding social media, video games, technology and online dating. Therefore, these moments, as intriguing as they are, exist for an important reason, even if creativity is overdone at times.
At the core, Jonze makes a bold statement. People retreat into virtual worlds, where human interaction becomes less common. This resonates throughout the film.
Jonze also looks at artificial intelligence. He moves his film into a realm of a quickly emerging field of technology while posing inquisitive moments. What happens when the thing you create grows beyond you?
This makes the film a modern philosophical spectacle. It works as good intellectual entertainment.
Phoenix, Johansson and Adams are superb. Phoenix is a solid actor. He more than carries the film and fits the role of a .com-writer finding solace in technology. He deserves multiple accolades. Johansson is sexy, even if only a voice. She manages to emote well without viewers seeing her body.
In addition, Adams, who is more compelling here than in the currently playing “American Hustle,” rounds out this nice trio. She is believable here and works well with Phoenix.
“Her” is another unique film by Jonze. If a fan of his work, no audience member will be disappointed. Creative and entertaining is the presentation. This story appears like something straight out of “The Twilight Zone.” It is forward-thinking material, a place movies rarely go with a persuasive efficiency.
Grade: B+ (She provides creative entertainment and social commentary)
“The Legend of Hercules” (Action / Adventure: 1 hour, 39 minutes)
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins
Director: Renny Harlin
Rated: PG-13 (Violence and some sensuality)
Movie Review: While the many versions of stories of Hercules vary slightly, this is different. It puts the Greek mythological hero into a “Twilight”-type romance mixed with elements of “300” (2006) and “Troy” (2004). The result is a blond Hercules, not the typical Mediterranean image audiences know.
In Ancient Greece, 1200 B.C., the womanizing god Zeus impregnates Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee). She bears a son who grows up to be Hercules (Lutz).
An angry King Amphitryon (Adkins) vows that Hercules will always be second to his brother, Prince Iphicles (Liam Garrigan). After Hercules and Crete’s Princess Hebe (Weiss), who is betrothed to Iphicles, fall in love, King Amphitryon sends Hercules on a fool’s mission with the intent that Hercules would die. Instead, the half-man, half-god Hercules embraces Zeus with the intent of returning to his kingdom and reclaiming Hebe.
Renny Harlin (“Driven”) directs this wayward tale that attempts to add another dimension to the legend of Hercules. The attempt fails.
If movie producers are going to make a film based on mythology, they should stick to the ancient story. The Greek-Roman mythological tales are already fascinating, so no need exists to dilute them with weak modern romance, too many special effects and overdone stunts. This is the case with this screenplay. In addition, it has unconvincing acting, and it is a very weak story, mainly because it deviates from the known story of Hercules.
Typically, Hercules’ depiction is a heroic man of great strength. He is strong. “The Legend of Hercules” is not.
Grade: D- (Not a herculean movie)
“Lone Survivor” (Action/Biography: 2 hours, 1 minute)
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