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Lone Survivor (2013)
Great, but the book was better
Having read Mr. Luttrell's book recently, I'd like to write a review comparing the movie to the book and note some omissions by the director (after all, a 2-hour movie based on a book that describes, in detail, the events that took place over one week is bound to omit certain events). Before I do so, however, I'd like to state that, despite not being 100% true to the book, Mr. Berg does an excellent job. Now, here are some important details omitted from the movie: 1. The death of each SEAL and some battle-scene changes.
First of all, Danny Dietz is shown getting apprehended by the Taliban (he's left behind after the other SEAL's tumble down a cliff) and dying from his wounds. In the book, Dietz gets shot in the head while Marcus is trying to drag him to safety. However, the movie does capture each of Dietz's injuries quite well (Dietz was shot eleven times according to autopsy reports, including having his fingers taken off by a 7.62 mm round).
Secondly, in the movie, Mike Murphy is able to call the base and inform his superiors of his group's situation, but he gets shot immediately after and dies. In the book, he didn't quite die at this point, as he was able to retreat back to cover (he actually died screaming Marcus' name).
Thirdly, after Axe and Marcus get separated, we don't know exactly what happens to Axe according to the book (we do know that his body was found with only one magazine left). The movie, however, shows him fighting until he runs out of ammunition.
2. Marcus' retreat and captivity.
This is where the movie really doesn't do the book justice. By that, I mean that the book was actually more dramatic and harrowing than even the movie.
You see, the movie shows Marcus stumbling along immediately after the fire-fight, finding water and then being rescued by villagers. However, in the book, Marcus actually has to drag his bloody, dehydrated body for miles before finding a water source (over the course of one day). When he finally finds it, he is indeed rescued by villagers.
Now, it's worth mentioning that the village actually protected Marcus from the Taliban for a few days. The book shows the villagers protecting Marcus from the Taliban for about half of a day. This wasn't true. Mohammad Gulab and his family actually protected Marcus after he was discovered by the Taliban FOR DAYS. After the Taliban found Marcus, they beat him up, but the village elder (actually Gulab's father) kicked the Taliban out of his house (in which Marcus was situated) using his authority as an elder and hid Marcus in another area. There were a few times when Gulab and Marcus were almost discovered, ready to fight, but fortunately this never materialized. Ahmad Shah, the main bad guy, actually confronted Gulab face-to-face and demanded that Gulab hand over Marcus (he left Gulab with the choice of making the decision later).
Anyway, Marcus was found by Rangers on the ground and rescued.
I loved the movie; don't get me wrong. But the actual events that took place after he was given asylum by the Afghani villagers is worth mentioning.
The Town (2010)
Mr. Affleck, Take a Bow.
It's been awhile since I've seen a good movie in theaters.
Yes, I did catch "Inception," but that movie was far too complex for my simple mind to retain.
And yes, I did see "Machete," but films imitating D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" aren't appealing to my senses.
"The Town" is far better than any movie I've seen in the last year. Not only are the action sequences breathtaking, but the story is well-scripted and powerful. The interactions between the story's main characters - Affleck, Reener and Hall - are beautifully rendered across a Bostonian landscape, and the casual pace of the story keeps one both interested and thoughtful. My friend was bored with the film's aforementioned pace, but I found it necessary in order to comprehend all of the character interactions. Indeed, the dialogue is what makes this film worthwhile; the script is what gives this film a lasting impact.
The movie starts out with four thieves robbing a bank in central Boston. After the robbery, one of the robbers - Coughlin (Reener) - decides to abduct a female bank manager - Claire (Hall) - as collateral (the alarm was tripped). After driving a few miles from the bank, the robbers release Hall, threatening her in the process (however, she is unharmed physically).
As a consequence of being abducted, Claire experiences residual effects. She becomes unstable, and simple activities become hard for her to complete. At this point, one of the bank-robbers - Macray (Affleck) - begins watching her, given that he wants to see if she knows anything that might implicate him and his buddies. However, as Macray is observing Claire, he notices the pain she's undergoing, and he starts to sympathize with her. What starts out as a simple reconnaissance mission turns into a full-blown relationship, with Macray eventually falling in love with the nervous, distraught Claire.
As the story progresses, Macray decides to quit being a bank-robber, opting instead to move from Boston with Claire and start a new life. However, there are people (i.e., a secondary party that's profiting from the robberies) who don't want Macray to leave, and they threaten to kill his girlfriend if he doesn't comply with their demands. What follows is an explosive conclusion which includes massive gunfights and clever twists, culminating in a finale that is well-worth the film's slow, casual pace.
What makes this movie brilliant is not the action sequences, though; it's the interactions between the main characters. For example, Macray and his psychotic accomplice, Coughlin, illustrate the brotherly bond between two friends who, though opposites in character, care for each other (note: it's similar to the friendship between Oskar Schindler and Amon Goethe in "Schindler's List"). The tension between these two characters is felt throughout the movie, and the dialogue between them is both powerful and provocative.
John Hamm - the actor playing the main antagonist - delivers both a magnificent and realistic performance as a law-enforcement officer who is determined to bring the guilty parties to justice. I believe a best-supporting actor Oscar is not a stretch by any means.
Ben Affleck also gives a great performance as a troubled bank-robber who is trying to leave his criminal profession.
In conclusion, Mr. Affleck delivers to the audience a powerful movie characterized by a captivating dialogue and realistic character interactions. Mr. Affleck, take a bow!
Mr. Rodriguez, you owe me $8.00.
There are a number of great Mexploitation films. "El Mariachi," "Desperado" and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" all come to mind. Not only were those films action-packed and entertaining, but they contained good plots which one could follow without losing interest.
Then, there's "Machete."
I'll keep things honest, seeing as (apparently) the only submitted reviews were done by film crew members.
The movie starts out well. In the first scene, Machete (and his partner, who dies almost immediately) storms into a drug cartel, wreaking havoc against armed goons with nothing but his (get ready) machete. He kills about a dozen people, rescuing a naked female hostage in the process. However, as they're leaving the cartel hideout, she betrays Machete to the cartel's leader, a man named Torrez (played by Steven Seagal). Machete being subdued, Torrez tortures Machete but decides not to kill him. Instead, he kills Machete's wife and child and leaves Machete alive so that he can suffer for the rest of his life.
Yes, it's simple, but the movie actually looked quite good up until this point. Then, the nightmare began.
Rather than construct a decent story and continue with the main plot (i.e., a man with nothing to lose trying to avenge the deaths of his wife and child), the movie veers off into a tirade of politicizations and hate-mongering. It portrays white conservatives (get ready for some originality) as racist red-necks who are hell-bent on killing Mexicans for sheer enjoyment. It even shows a U.S. Senator (played by Robert De Niro) killing a pregnant illegal alien and her spouse, saying afterward, "My supporters would love this" (paraphrase).
(Yes, Hollywood, people are not against illegal immigration because it destroys the Rule of Law, hurts the economy, increases unemployment, increases violent crime, puts financial burdens on tax-payers, etc. - it's because they hate Hispanics).
Before continuing, I just want to mention that the writer of this review is the product of a Hispanic father. OK, here we go.
As already mentioned, after the opening sequence, the movie becomes overtly political. The aforementioned senator (played by De Niro) is seen campaigning for re-election, his main political platform being the construction of a border-fence designed to keep out illegal aliens (the horror!). However, many people in power are against this, and they hire Machete (now a day-laborer) to assassinate the senator. Of course, as indicated by the coming attractions, Machete is betrayed by the very people who hire him, and it is revealed that they are, in fact, working for the very cartel leader who killed Machete's family (what a startling coincidence!). It turns out that Machete was only hired to arouse public sympathy for the senator and increase the public's demand for a border fence (which Torrez, the cartel leader who killed Machete's family, wants, given that then he can control the drug trade between the Mexican-U.S. border).
The story gets very boring, with immigration politics ascending into the forefront. The action slows down to a grinding halt, and the story devolves into simple political platitudes (check out Jessica Alba's call for a race-war near the end of the movie, demanding that illegal immigrants incite violence in order to acquire citizenship).
In conclusion, this movie sucks. Mr. Rodriguez, I want my money back.
Stranger: Mukô hadan (2007)
A Praise of Western Civilization
This is, without doubt, one of the greatest animated movies I have ever seen. The animation is superb, the fights are choreographed perfectly and the story is second-to-none. However, to fully appreciate the story's meaning, you need to understand the philosophical context of the film. The following review is a brief summary of the philosophical content and persuasions that went into this movie.
First, this story is - as the title of this review suggests - a praise of Western Civilization. Throughout the story, we, the viewers, are bombarded with cultural comparisons between two main ethnic groups: Westerners (i.e., represented by the two Western characters, Lord Rarou and Nanashi) and Easterners (represented collectively by the Chinese and Japanese lords/warriors). The two main characters - Lord Rarou and Nanashi - represent two aspects of Western Civilization: Individualism and Traditional (Western) Morality. On the other hand, the Japanese and Chinese represent two aspects of Eastern Civilization (which are antithetical to the two aforementioned Western precepts): Collectivism and Immorality.
The first Westerner - Lord Rarou - represents the first aspect of Western Civilization: Individualism. Lord Rarou is a Westerner (presumably raised in China) who is a member of the Chinese warrior class and, as such, owes his complete allegiance to the (Chinese) Ming Dynasty. All the Chinese in this movie are shown as subservient to the singular will of the Ming Emperor. Furthermore, all the Chinese are vassals of the Emperor, unable to disobey his will and moral authority. However, Lord Rarou is unlike his Chinese counterparts in that he is only concerned with finding someone who can match his skill is swordsmanship. He repeatedly shows his disdain for Chinese practices (e.g., taking opium to ease pain) and for the emperor in general. Whereas the rest of the Chinese warriors are dependent upon the will and whims of the nobility, Rarou chooses to follow his own beliefs and proclivities. As you watch this film, compare Lord Rarou's character to that of his Chinese counterparts.
The second Westerner (and the main protagonist) - Nanashi - represents the second Western philosophical precept: Traditional Morality. Whereas Nanashi's Japanese counterparts are only concerned with baser pleasures (e.g., power, lust, wealth, etc.), Nanashi willingly risks his life for the sake of a boy named Kotaro, whom he befriended on his journey through the Akaike province. Compare Nanashi's noble character with that of the rest of the Japanese. Whereas the latter group seeks only petty, ephemeral conquests, the former strives to do what is right and just.
Again, this movie should be viewed in the context of comparing the two aforementioned cultural groups. Only then will one enjoy (and understand) the story's meanings.