Archives for posts with tag: heroic

Grade A

Disney has produced another hit with “Moana.”  Playing the title role, Auli’i Cravalho is a princess of a South Pacific island.  Kind, intelligent, brave and adventurous, her desire to see what is beyond her island home is impeded by her father’s warnings of the dangers that are out in the deep ocean and Cravalho’s duty to stay home and learn how to be the next chief of the people.   She reluctantly gives up her dream of sailing into the ocean far from home…until the plant and fish that Cravalho’s people depend on to survive either die off or disappear.

Learning of an ancient tale of a demigod named Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) who stole a precious stone that provided life to the ocean and islands, Cravalho goes on a treacherous journey to find Johnson and force him to put the stone back; and hope that would bring balance, peace, and life back to her world.  There will be many challenges for the young princess: she lacks knowledge of deep ocean sailing; she has a mentally challenged chicken as a stowaway; Johnson does not share Cravalho’s eagerness to return the stone back to where it belongs; a swarm of tiny, coconut-headed pirates roam the ocean; Johnson’s magic hook must be taken from a giant crab who will not give it up so easily; and a fearsome god made of lava guards the entrance to where the stone must be returned.  Yup, it’s going to take a team of brilliant writers to get her through all this!

My most memorable, movie moment of “Moana” is the scene when the princess gets a visit from her grandmother at a time when the princess is at her lowest, ready to give up and go home.  It is a touching scene, especially to viewers who have lost a loved one and believe that our spirits go on, and one day we will see them again.

Fully realized, likeable characters; a great story; positive messages; amazing animation; scenes that are very funny and scenes that put a lump in your throat; catchy songs…these are all present in “Moana.”  Bottom line, it’s a great movie that adults will enjoy with their children because, like most Disney movies, it just makes you feel better about life.

— M

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In 2005, a four man team of Navy SEALs are sent on a mission in Afghanistan to find and capture or kill high-ranking members of the Taliban. Problems with their communications equipment and encountering 3 Afghan, goat herders compromise the SEALs’ mission, producing a brutal fight that lasts for days.  This is “Lone Survivor,” based on the book by Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of the four man SEAL team.

The opening of the movie shows real footage of Navy soldiers going through the hell of SEAL training.  It’s a great way to show the audience how tough these soldiers are early in the movie, which ties in well with how hard the team fought when the mission went sour.  It also shows the strong bond these men form early in their training.  When you’ve been through the same crap together in training, and then in combat, you become brothers, risking your life and willing to die so that your brother may live.  There are many instances of that in the second and third acts of “Lone Survivor.”

One example of the SEAL team’s brotherhood and sacrifice is my most memorable, movie moment of “Lone Survivor.”  That would be the scene when Taylor Kitsch (playing team leader Mike Murphy, who was soon to be married at the time) tells Mark Wahlberg (playing Marcus Luttrell) that Kitsch will climb to a higher and open area to make a call for help using a satellite phone while they are under heavy, enemy fire.  Wahlberg, knowing that the chances of Kitsch getting killed by doing this is very high, disagrees with the decision; but Kitsch has already made up his mind, and begins to give the few magazines of ammo he has left to Wahlberg.  Wahlberg says, “Sorry Mike.”  Kitsch replies, “For what?”  Wow.  Just think about that reply for a minute.

Coming in second place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when the SEAL team discuss what to do with their 3 goat herder prisoners (a boy, a teenager with hatred in his eyes, and an old man).  Various options were mentioned: let the prisoners go and they’ll probably go back to the Taliban village and rat out the SEALs; tie up the prisoners and the SEALs scrub the mission and go to the extraction point, but the prisoners could freeze to death or get eaten by a wild animal, therefore making the SEALs responsible for civilian deaths; or kill the prisoners and keep going with the mission, but that would violate the rules of engagement, and make the SEALs murderers.  It’s a hell of a discussion, and many of you will probably wonder what decision you would have made.  What the SEALs do decide regarding their prisoners is something they will pay a heavy price for.

Third place for my most memorable, movie moment of “Lone Survivor” is the speech given by a new SEAL member during his hazing ritual.  It is an affirmation of living life to the fullest, going for it balls out, and wanting more.  I admire people like that.  I wish I could say that speech and actually mean it; but I live a hum-drum life and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

As far as action movies go, “Lone Survivor” delivers what you would expect of it.  But it’s more than a movie, it is a testament to the courage, toughness, sacrifice, and bond of these special men of the Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land forces.

–M

Gerard Butler plays the title role in “Machine Gun Preacher,” a true story of an outlaw biker who changed his life for the better, and finds himself on a crusade to help orphaned children of war-torn Sudan.

The stakes for the children and other innocent villagers in the Sudan are laid out clearly for us at the beginning when we see a village invaded by a small group from the militant organization called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  The LRA are bloodthirsty savages who murder, rape, pillage and cripple villagers whom they believe do not share in the LRA’s political beliefs, or simply because the LRA just wants to hurt and abuse people.  The opening sequence comes to its most graphic, sickening point when a little boy is forced to kill his mother.  This is my most memorable, movie moment of “Machine Gun Preacher.”  It is a brutal reminder of how evil people can be, and how many of us have it so good.  Complain about gas prices and the cost of bridge and tunnel tolls all you want…your problems most likely are insignificant compared to what these villagers in the Sudan go through.

This movie is also a reminder of how good people can be; and how the need and the actual work done to help people can turn into an obsession that threatens the life and spirit of the one who is doing the good deed.  Enter Butler, who we first see coming out of prison.  He is a fearsome ex-con with a red-hot temper and a taste for drugs and alcohol.  His life is one big, downward spiral, but a night of violence forces him to seek help, and he gets it in the church that his wife and child attend.

Years later, successful in every way, Butler hears a Missionary’s tale of people in Africa who desperately need help.  Butler, being the good Christian that he is, goes to Africa to do God’s work and help those who are crying for help.  He sees first hand the damage that the LRA have done, especially to the children.  Butler raises money from donations he gets from the church he built back in his home state of Pennsylvania — along with money from his savings and construction business — to build a church, a playground, and an orphanage for children in the Sudan.  The threats of attacks from the LRA are constant; and Butler turns from a preacher/missionary into an assault rifle-carrying preacher who will kill any two-legged animal who tries to harm his flock.  Amen.

It’s a bit hard to take, but “MGP” is worth watching.  Technically, it falls a bit flat when it comes to pacing, and that’s due to the constant trips Butler takes back and forth to and from Africa.  I know why it was done — the movie has to show us the strain on Butler’s relationship with his family in the U.S. — and it may have happened that way in real life; but real life is unstructured, and movies have a basic, three act structure.  Any “based on a true story” movie that follows too closely to the structure of what really happened usually fails at holding a pace that keeps the audience riveted to their seats.

“Machine Gun Preacher” is a movie that lowers and uplifts your spirits, in some cases at the same time.  Knowing that the violence inflicted on the Sudanese civilians as depicted in this movie is still happening gives “Machine Gun Preacher” a greater importance.  We are not just watching the past, we are also watching the present and the future.   A real downer, huh?  Ah, don’t worry.  If you’re like most people, soon after viewing this movie you’ll be back to being preoccupied with your daily worries and forget that every day tens of thousands of people all over the world are being brutalized.  I’m ashamed to say…I’m like most people.

M

The future of America is bleak: irradiated wastelands force people to live in overcrowded, enclosed cities; unemployment is extremely high, and many turn to crime, feeding on those who are weaker.  Gangs run the streets and the mega-buildings that litter the cities.  The only ones who defend the innocent and uphold the law are the Judges: police officers who are a combination of judge, jury, and executioner.

Karl Urban plays Judge Dredd, a fearless, veteran law enforcement officer who is saddled with a rookie Judge (played by Olivia Thirlby) who happens to be a powerful, mutant psychic.  Together, they enter a high-rise building with 200 levels to investigate 3 gang related murders.  Urban and Thirlby arrest a gang member who they suspect is the killer; but Lena Headey (who plays the leader of the Ma-Ma gang that rules the entire building) puts the building on lockdown to prevent the Judges from taking their prisoner for questioning.  With their wireless communications blocked out, the Judges are on their own as hundreds of gang-bangers hunt them down.

“Dredd” is as serious and brutal as a heart attack.  I can almost feel the grime of the city crawling on my skin as I watched this fast-paced, well written and well-directed movie.  Within 5 minutes of watching “Dredd,” I was hooked; and it took me on an almost non-stop, violent and bloody ride.  Although Urban is the star, Thirlby steals the show; and that’s mostly because the story deals with her character more deeply than it does with the Dredd character.   We see her as an outcast at first, unsure of herself; but she quickly gets her bearings and proves herself more than a match for those who seek to kill her and her partner.

One of my memorable moments from “Dredd” is the scene when Thirlby, unarmed, charges two gangsters who have their backs turned to her.  The speed and viciousness of her attack against the two gangsters was a bit shocking because I didn’t expect it from a petite, pretty, short, and young rookie.  The shot where Thirlby shoots one of the gang members in the face with a fully automatic sub-machine gun deserves several rewinds.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Dredd” is the scene when Headey has her goons set up three, very large mini-guns (I know, it’s like saying jumbo shrimp) and fire it in the general direction of where they think Urban and Thirlby are.   The guns fire non-stop for about a minute, shooting thousands of large caliber bullets that destroy anything and everyone it hits.  Lifeless, civilian bodies drop as there is nothing in their apartments to stop the bullets.  It’s one of those moments when you simply and quietly say, “holy s@#t” when the carnage is over.

As raw as “Dredd” is, there is also hope and beauty in this movie.  The hope is embodied in Thirlby, who came from the slums and is now on her way to become one of the best Judges ever…if she survives.  The beauty comes from the slow motion shots which are works of art.  I watched the DVD version of this movie, and I’m sure the Blu-ray, 3D version would really make the slow motion parts of “Dredd” stand out even more.

Whatever format you watch “Dredd” in, if you’re an action-movie fan, you need to invest some of your precious time into watching this very good movie.

M

I write this a little high from the Johnnie Walker Double Black I drank with dinner, so if my writing is a bit off, hey, now you know why.  “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is based on a true story (my definition of “based on a true story” is 10% is true and 90% is Hollywood b.s.) of a black man who served as a butler in the White House from the Eisenhower administration to the Reagan administration.

Forest Whitaker plays this butler, and we see him growing up in the South where blacks are brutalized on a regular basis.  Those years have formed much of his attitude on how to live his life: work hard, don’t rock the boat, don’t fight white society, and make yourself useful and non-threatening to white people.   Whitaker moves up North and winds up working in the White House; and through his eyes we see the plight of black people in America as they fight for their right to be treated equally with whites.

Whitaker, of course, doesn’t do much regarding the Civil Rights protests; but his son, played by David Oyelowo, bravely puts himself in harm’s way as he fights for better treatment of blacks in America.  The different natures of father and son are striking.  Each are set in their ways on how to live life.   One is happy with the status quo, wanting to play it safe.  The other wants more, and will not tolerate the oppression his father went through.  Their differing views tears them apart, and it is hard to watch because Whitaker and Oyelowo love each other but each has taken a hard line stance on what should be done.   There is no middle ground.  Not yet.

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is a movie that is worthy of your time.   It pulls no punches regarding the atrocities America has committed against black people; and it offers hope.  The acting, the story, and the direction are all solid.  Entertaining as well as educational.

One of my most memorable, movie moments of “…The Butler” is the sequence when Martin Luther King Jr. is educating Oyelowo on why he should be proud of Whitaker.  King states that butlers shouldn’t be seen as Uncle Toms; but as another way black people can be viewed positively by whites.  A good butler works hard, speaks more eloquently than the ones working in the fields, is trusted with the household, and sometimes has the ear of his white boss.   In other words, a butler can be more subversive than the Civil Rights marchers.

Another memorable moment of this movie is the scene when Lyndon B. Johnson is making a speech on t.v. regarding the plight of the Negroes.   Cuba Gooding Jr. says something like, “since when did we become Negroes?  That nigger says nigger more than I do!”

My most memorable, movie moment of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is the scene when a bus full of Civil Rights protestors are trapped by the KKK, and the windows are smashed and a Klansman throws a molotov cocktail inside the bus, killing many within.  It’s an extremely horrifying scene, and it is a great reminder of the sacrifices and suffering many have made and endured so that we can have the rights we enjoy today.

So, my fellow Americans, don’t be too hasty in giving up your rights in exchange for promises of safety.  Our right to speak our mind, our right to unreasonable search and seizure, our right to a fair trial, our right to vote, our right to keep and bear arms, our right to protest…we have these rights because so many people fought and suffered and died to get them.    Don’t give them away, because you may not get them back.

M

The war between the mutants and the humans peaks when the humans discover a mutant boy with the power to turn any mutant into a normal human.  Having synthesized a “cure” for mutation through experimentation with the mutant boy, the humans go after Ian McKellen (Magneto) and his growing Brotherhood of Mutants who have stepped up their attacks against the humans.  As always, Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and his X-Men stand in the way of McKellen’s efforts to end the lives of all humans.

While we see a new crop of Stewart’s students becoming full fledged members of the X-Men, all is not well at the mansion.  Famke Janssen, who plays mutant Jean Grey, is thought to be dead; and some of her students and X-Men teammates are still grieving over the loss, especially Hugh Jackman (Wolverine).  But apparently Janssen had survived, and the near death experience has brought out the repressed personality called Phoenix which has become the most powerful mutant on Earth.  Naturally, the X-Men want her back because they love Janssen.  Naturally, McKellen wants her to join the Brotherhood so he can have a nearly unstoppable force in his war against the humans.   Which group does Janssen choose?  It doesn’t really matter, as Janssen’s mind is so unstable and her power is so great that the entire world is in danger of being destroyed by her.

In this 3rd movie of the series, gone is director Bryan Singer, replaced by Brett Ratner.  Since there are many talents involved in a Hollywood movie, I’m not going to say “X-Men: The Last Stand” is better than the previous 2 movies just because of the director change, but “…The Last Stand” is better then the previous 2 X-Men movies.  The stakes are higher, there are more mutants, more fighting, the pace is faster, and there is more drama.   And Storm (played by Halle Berry) shows more of her power, and looks scary when she does it, which is a far cry from the weakling  she was made out to be in the first movie.   I’m sad to say that this movie is rated PG-13, so there’s not much gore and blood when people die.  It’s a sanitized way of showing what should be gruesome deaths, and gruesome deaths is what I want to see when Wolverine takes the claws out and cuts through the flesh of his enemies.  (sigh) Maybe one day someone will have the balls to make a rated R X-Men movie.

One of my memorable, movie moments of this third part of the X-Men movies is the scene when we see Stewart (Prof. X) walking.  It’s a scene that takes place about 20 years in the past.  So, that would mean the scene takes place in the 1980s.  Big problem here.  In the movie “X-Men: First Class,” Professor X become paralyzed at the end, and that movie takes place in the early 1960s.  What’s up with that?

Another memorable, movie moment of “…The Last Stand” is the scene when a boy mutant named Angel is cutting off his wings with scissors and knives, leaving bloody stumps on his back, and the beautiful, white feathers of his wings on the floor.  He does this because he doesn’t want to be a freak, he just wants to be normal.   When I saw this scene, I imagined all the boys and girls out there who are not considered “normal,” and who suffer daily because we still live in a world where intolerance of people’s differences is a “normal” thing.  Oh, and for those who consider Angel a funny, gay looking mutant who looks like he should be in a gay pride parade in the Village: in the comics, he is transformed by a bad character into a very mean looking, powerful mutant whose wings are now made of metal, and the feathers can fly off like razor blades to kill his enemies; and he’s got beef with Jackman.  We’ll see if this plays out in the future X-Men movies.

My most memorable, movie moment of “X-Men: The Last Stand” is the scene when McKellen gives a passionate speech to mutants as to why they should fight humans.  McKellen’s character was sent to a Nazi, concentration camp as a boy, and his speech is clearly based on his experiences during those frightening times.  A time of people denying what the government was doing, hoping for the best; and then in the middle of the night, the attacks begin, ending in the murder of millions who were considered different and/or unwanted.

Always keep your eyes open, people.   Yes, the world does overwhelm sometimes, and it’s so easy to plunge ourselves into mindless entertainment to decrease the stress levels.  But once in a while, stick your head out of the sand, and watch closely what is happening around you.  And the more powerful someone is, the less he should be trusted.

M

 

Director Zack Snyder — director of “300” and “Watchmen” — tackles the story of Superman, and he does it so well that Snyder should be a defensive lineman.   Of course, a movie’s success and quality depends upon more than just the director, and “Man of Steel” has the talented cast and screenwriter that helped this movie to be a hit.

“Man of Steel” takes us from the birth of Superman (played by Henry Cavill) all the way to when Cavill wears the famous red and blue suit, accepting his role as Earth’s protector.  But the story is told in a non-linear way, meaning there are lots of flashbacks to key moments of Cavill’s life as a boy, a teen, and a young man.   I believe the reason Snyder did this was to move the story along at a faster pace, without sacrificing important elements of the backstory.   But what is sacrificed is the wonder we feel as we watch Cavill go through an awkward and emotionally painful childhood, the emotions in him — and in us — building up if  we were to see him grow up in a linear way, from a scared boy to a confident superhero.  Jumping around in the storyline, as “Man of Steel” does, takes away a lot of that wonder and emotional buildup.   Watch “Superman” after you watch “Man of Steel,” and I’m sure you will have a stronger connection with Superman in the 1978 movie.

That said, this is still a very good movie.  I’ve got $10 waiting to buy this when it comes out on BD for that price (yeah, I know, it’ll be a while before that happens, but I can wait).   Superman purists may be upset about a few things, such as: the lack of red briefs in Superman’s suit, there is no kryptonite (at least in this first movie), Cavill has a beard, and Perry White is played by a black guy (Laurence Fishburne).  Well, there’s no point in rebooting the Superman story if you’re just going to leave everything the same.   Whatever changes Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer made to the Superman story, they do not significantly alter what we know of the Superman world.  Watch and see for yourself.

And should you do that, you will see a Krypton that is grittier, like a “Star Wars” planet where large beasts roam the skies with spaceships.  You will see Cavill aimlessly going from job to job, travelling all over the world as he figures out his purpose and place on Earth, waiting for the right time when he can reveal himself to the world and hope that he will be accepted.  And you will see Michael Shannon — who plays Kryptonian General Zod — seek and find Cavill, not to kill him, but to ask for his help to create a new Krypton, founded upon the destruction of Earth.

And speaking of Shannon, one of my memorable, movie moments of “Man of Steel” is the scene when Shannon passionately explains to Cavill why Shannon does what he does.  Shannon was raised to be a soldier; his sole purpose is to protect Krypton and its inhabitants, by any means necessary.  And by extension, he has the obligation to find a new world to terraform into a new Krypton for the last remaining Kryptonians who still live, including the unborn, Kryptonian babies that are harbored in Cavill’s cells.  “What!” you yell out.  “What was that?”  That’s right, Spartacus, you heard me.  And some guy took a vial of Cavill’s blood.  Where that vial is, we don’t know.  But I think it will be used somehow in the next 2 sequels.

Now, my most memorable, movie moment of “Man of Steel” is the scene when Kevin Costner (who plays Cavill’s human father) finds himself on the path of a tornado.  SPOILER ALERT here.  Costner had already instructed Cavill and Diane Lane (who plays Cavill’s human mother) to seek shelter under an overpass as Costner helps others who are in harm’s way.  Costner has no time to escape as the tornado is upon him.  He looks at Cavill, and puts his hand out signaling Cavill to not use his powers to save him, because that would mean exposing Cavill’s superhuman abilities to the whole world, as there are many witnesses around.   We see Costner quickly swallowed up by the twister, and he is gone.  Why did Costner sacrifice his life in order to keep his son’s secret?  Because he felt the world wasn’t ready — as well as his son — for the upheaval that the revelation would bring.

Screw that.  If I had the powers of Superman, no way in hell I would allow my father to die in front of me when I could easily save him.  Damn the world and its small-mindedness, its fears and its prejudices.  The world would just have to deal with me being an alien with powers to destroy the Earth.  Deal with it.  And if you can’t…well, what are you going to do about it?

M

“We Were Soldiers” is the true story of the first major battle between the Americans and the Vietnamese during the Vietnam war.  An Air Cavalry unit (helicopters are used to transport troops instead of horses) led by Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson) are sent to an area to find and engage the enemy.  The problem is that the Americans are severely outnumbered as they have landed at the base of a mountain fortress holding thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers.  What follows are several days of brutal fighting that is almost non-stop, giving the audience a taste of what combat is like.

One unexpected aspect of this movie is that we get to see the battle from the perspective of the Vietnamese soldiers — why they fight, their convictions, their pain and suffering.  But mostly we see the war the way Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson) and his soldiers of the Air Cavalry unit have seen it.  Adding more depth to this work are the scenes involving the housewives of the U.S. soldiers: their day to day activities that make their lives seem so normal; and the dread of not knowing when that letter from the government will come to let them know that their husbands have been killed in combat.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Gibson is praying to God, asking for protection for his men.  Gibson acknowledges that the Vietnamese will also pray to God, asking for victory; but Gibson asks God to ignore their heathen prayers and allow the Americans to blow the little bastards to hell.  Ha!  Now that sounds like my kind of prayer!

My most memorable, movie moment of “We Were Soldiers” is the sequence when Gibson, awake before dawn and dressed in his combat gear, kisses his sleeping children and wife, then walks out of the house.  One look on his face and you know that he’s thinking there’s a chance that may be the last time he’ll see his family.  He walks alone, in the dark, to the rally point where he and his men will board buses to take them to the airport.  He stands alone, face filled with troubling emotions, and he lowers his head.  Then he slowly looks up and smiles, seeing one soldier after another walk to the rally point.  From here on, this is his family, and they will have to take care of each other if they want to survive the nightmare that they are going to.

I’ve read a short interview of Lt. Colonel Moore where he was discounting Vietnam movies like “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now” because those movies had elements of U.S. soldiers committing murder and rape, and doing drugs; and that Moore never saw such things during his time in Vietnam.   Fair enough.   But keep in mind that just because you haven’t seen something happen, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.  I’ve never seen anyone get murdered, but I do know it occurs.

M

In this third Christian Bale, Batman movie, Gotham City’s Dark Knight (played by Bale) has not made an appearance in years because Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s body and soul have been worn out from years of fighting crime and being hunted by the police.  Bale is just fine being a recluse and nursing his physical and psychological wounds as cops handle Gotham City’s criminal elements — until a new threat arrives: Bane (played by Tom Hardy).   Using new gadgets that add strength to his weakened body, Bale suits up again and goes toe to toe against Hardy.  The fight goes horribly wrong for Bale, as he underestimates the power and skill and determination that Hardy has; and Bale finds himself in a seemingly hopeless situation as Hardy proceeds with his plan to destroy Gotham City.

Director and screenwriter Christopher Nolan has given us another dark, deep and disturbing work of art in “The Dark Knight Rises.”  The movie explores subjects such as: corruption in the police force; lying for the public good, and how the lies can quickly get out of hand and become worse than telling the truth in the first place; the need to leave a loved one because the loved one’s self-destructive lifestyle will do harm to those around him; finding in yourself the strength and purpose to rise out of a literal and figurative pit; and how much of yourself are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals.

In this movie, we get to see a few new toys in Batman’s arsenal.   The most interesting is what I think is called The Wing, basically a hovercraft.  And there is the handheld, Electro Magnetic Pulse gun that will destroy the electronics in any device.   And yes, Batman still doesn’t use a gun.  He has cannons that can demolish buildings, but he uses no guns.  Why? Because his parents were killed by guns.  This has always been a problem I had with the Batman character, and why he isn’t one of my favorite comic book characters.  In the comic books, Batman is always saying that guns are for weak, cowardly criminals.   Hey, a gun is a tool.  It can be used for good or bad.   And we know Batman has lots of tools (gadgets) that he uses.  Does that make him weak and cowardly, or crafty and intelligent?  You use what you can to get the job done.  If his parents were killed by someone using a knife, would Batman not use any blade in his arsenal, and instead use guns?

Guns or no guns, Batman doesn’t make an appearance until almost halfway into the movie.  I’m sure Nolan got an earful from studio execs about that one.  But I believe Nolan did the right thing.  It allows the audience to be on pins and needles waiting for Batman to show up, and when he does finally show, it makes the experience more rewarding.  Like waiting until you’re very hungry to eat your favorite food.  Nolan defied Hollywood convention in not showing the costumed hero until much later in the movie, and it paid off handsomely.

I have two memorable, movie moments from “The Dark Knight Rises.”  In second place — SPOILER ALERT HERE — is the last shot of the movie when Gotham Police Officer Blake goes into the Batcave, and steps onto a platform that quickly rises to reveal all that is within.  Oh, Officer Blake’s first name is Robin.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Dark Knight Rises” is the scene where Michael Caine (who plays Alfred) is telling Bale that he is leaving because he refuses to watch Bale continue to fight crime as Batman and most likely end up being killed.  Caine tells Bale that Bale has done enough as Batman, and that he can help Gotham better as Bruce Wayne.  Caine sees no end to Bale’s crime fighting as Batman if he doesn’t stop at this moment, and the pain of seeing Bale waste his life on his nightly crusades is too much for Caine to bear.  This is the most powerful scene in the movie, dealing with wanting and needing to leave someone you love very much because you can no longer take seeing that person continue with his/her obsession that you know will ultimately lead to that person’s destruction.  For those who have never been in that situation you won’t understand Caine’s decision to leave.  You’ll think that Caine should have just stuck it out and help Bale do what he needed to do.  For those who have been in this situation, you’ll understand the pain that Caine is dealing with; and know that he is leaving only because Caine has reached his emotional breaking point that will manifest itself into some physical sickness if he stays.  Sometimes you have to let people go and let them do what they have to do.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is an entertaining and emotionally satisfying ending to the Nolan/Bale Batman trilogy, worthy of being bought on BD to add to your collection of great movies. Of course, the very last shot offers hints of more to come.  Typical of big budget, profitable, Hollywood movies: a little hedge in case another movie is greenlit; but if not, then the last movie stands on its own as a great ending.

M

“The Warrior’s Way” combines somewhat successfully the Western and Samurai movies.  Only Dong-gun Jang doesn’t play a Samurai — he plays a ninja.  After wiping out all but one of a rival clan (a baby girl), Jang has a change of heart and decides to let the girl live.  Of course, this makes his own clan, The Sad Flutes, very upset, and they now target Jang and the girl for termination.  Jang goes to the American West with the girl, where he encounters a small town populated by circus freaks, a sniper who swore to never pick up a gun again, a woman (Kate Bosworth) whose family was murdered by bandits, and assorted rubes and rednecks.

There are two sets of enemies that add tension and drama to “The Warrior’s Way”: the bandits, numbering about 50 to 100; and about 3 dozen Sad Flutes.  It should be one hell of a battle and one hell of a movie; and it sort of, kind of is, but it ultimately fails.  And here are the reasons why.

“The Warrior’s Way” is not a completely serious movie.  Rough guess…it’s 30% comedy.  Most of the comedy blends decently with the movie, but unless the writer and director are extremely talented at combining comedy with action, the results tend to be that the action parts lose their intensity, leading the audience to become less engaged in the story and characters.  And that’s what happened with me.

Another reason why this movie isn’t successful is that the ninja action and violence are too stylized and over the top to the point that they are cartoonish.   It looks nice, but it lacks substance.  Also, The Sad Flutes are supposed to be bad-ass assassins; but when they go up against the gun-toting bandits, they mostly come at them using a frontal attack.  Huh?  You have swords and the enemy have guns and you charge at them head on?  Oh, and The Sad Flutes never use shurikens (sharp objects thrown at the enemy).  This is just lazy screenwriting and bad direction.

Want another reason why this movie isn’t that good?  Jang’s acting.  This is the first time I’ve seen Jang’s work, so I don’t know if he can act and he just downplayed his abilities to be a silent, brooding character, or if he really can’t act.  Whatever the case, his acting in “The Warrior’s Way” doesn’t help the movie.

And it doesn’t help that the leader of The Sad Flutes looks a lot like Cheech Marin.  I really did think it was him, wearing prosthetics to look Asian.

(Sigh) If this was done seriously, and the action was realistic, I think it would’ve been a hit.  But instead it’s a slightly entertaining movie that should be watched as a rental — or in my case, I watched it for free (thanks, Library!).

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Warrior’s Way” is the scene when Jang and Bosworth were sparring with short swords, and Bosworth had one of her swords against Jang’s neck, and she thought she won.  Jang tells her that it’s not over until the opponent’s heart stops beating, then shows her that he has one of his swords against her stomach.  Bosworth suddenly kisses Jang, which surprises the hell out of him, and then she asks him if that stopped his heart.   Even though I guessed she was going to say something like that, I was still very impressed with that scene.

Now, for those of you with cheaply made swords, nicknamed “wall hangers”:  that’s all they should do — hang on walls.  Why? Because the blade is most likely made of stainless steel, and stainless steel becomes brittle when it’s too long.  Also, cheap swords usually don’t have a full tang, meaning the blade doesn’t extend all the way into the handle; and therefore, if you start swinging your wall hanger around after seeing movies like “The Warrior’s Way,” there’s a chance the blade will fly out of the handle and stab one of your kids.

M

No, this movie isn’t about Somalians sitting around a campfire watching each other get skinnier, waiting for the next one to drop dead from malnutrition.  “The Hunger Games” is about a nation that takes a young man and a young woman from each of the 12 districts and places them in an enclosed area where they fight each other until only 1 survivor remains.  Why?  Those 12 districts, many years ago, waged war against the government.  The 12 districts lost the war, and in order to make the districts remember their actions against the government, each region has to offer 2 of their children as sacrifice to the annual Hunger Games.  Well, it’s more than a remembrance, really.  It’s also a show of power for the government, and a way to entertain the masses who love blood sport.

Jennifer Lawrence ends up having the “honor” of representing District 12 after she volunteers in order to save her younger sister who was the first pick in the lottery.  Lawrence has the better odds of surviving the Games, as she is a hunter, an expert with a bow, and she’s mentally tough.

Lawrence’s counterpart from District 12 is Josh Hutcherson, a guy who works in his parents’ bakery store, and who has a secret crush on Lawrence.  But instead of having the guts to say he likes her, he simply tosses a piece of burned bread to a starving Lawrence as she is cuddled up by a tree during a rainstorm years ago.  Who needs diamonds to say “I love you” when you can use burnt bread?

In the weeks prior to the Games, the “tributes” from each district are treated to lavish meals, expensive clothing (the fashion and hairstyles are grotesque and laughable — like something from a gay man’s LSD trip), and training in fighting and survival tactics.  It’s disturbing to see the disparity in ages, size and ability of the tributes.  Some teens are the size of large men, while others are little girls.  But weapons are available during the Games; and it’s not just about strength.   Intelligence, knowing when to hide or fight, how to build a fire, set traps…they are all part of the fight.  Also, tributes who provide the most entertainment are usually rewarded with gifts from “sponsors” in the form of medicine, soup, weapons, etc.

“The Hunger Games” will probably disturb some people because of the depiction of children fighting to the death.  But keep in mind that the majority of the tributes are played by men and women; and these adult actors are the ones who are given the most gruesome deaths.  As for me, I give no greater weight to a child’s death in movies compared to an adult’s death in movies.   If I don’t care about a character, child or not, I couldn’t care less.  Plus I don’t like kids, anyway.  What?  Kids are our future, you say?  Well, then we’re all f*@!ed, I say, because our future will be littered with people who have lost the art of writing and proper speech; people who are so connected to their electronic devices that they don’t pay attention to what’s happening in front of them, even when they’re driving; people who would rather live in a virtual world than in the real world.  Anyway…

“The Hunger Games” is a solid piece of storytelling that makes a commentary on how a government can control and manipulate the masses through television entertainment.   Case in point: The United States.  How many of you know about the numerous laws passed since the 9/11 attacks that strip you of your civil liberties?  How many of you know who your Congressman is, and how to contact him or her to voice your opinion?  Not many, I’m willing to bet.  How many of you have memorized the offensive line of your state’s football team, or who Justin Bieber is currently dating, or the favorite color of Lady Gaga?  Many, I’m guessing.  Open your eyes, people, and see the prison bars that the government is slowly building around us.

Lawrence knows well how her government controls the people in “The Hunger Games,” and she fights not only the other tributes, but the government itself.  One act of defiance is my most memorable, movie moment.  Spoiler alert!  The government decides that 2 winners (both from the same District) can live, and those two turn out to be Lawrence and Hutcherson.  Then the government says that it changed its mind.  Only 1 winner can survive.  Well, Lawrence refuses to play the game anymore, so she decides to eat poison berries to end her life, and Hutcherson decides to kill himself in the same manner.  It’s a powerful scene.  When one is a slave, freedom can be had through victory or death.  When one person stands up and says “no,” sometimes the entire world hears it.

M

We are introduced to one of the Avengers in this well-made, fun movie that gives us the background of Thor.  Thor is an immortal warrior of a place called Asgard, where the majority of the warriors dress like they are going to the gay pride parade in Manhattan.  Hey, if you’re going to die in battle, at least have the decency to look fabulous, right?  Give me two snaps up if you agree!  Anyway, Thor is the son of Odin, who is the ruler of Asgard.  Thor, being young and full of piss and vinegar (sounds like the contents of a tampon), commits acts that go against his father’s wishes.  On top of that, he royally insults his father; and Thor winds up being banished to Earth without his powers or his mighty, hammer weapon, Mjolnir.  Loki, Thor’s jealous bro, is left mostly unchecked in Asgard to do evil things that put the universe in danger.

Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, and he does a very good job of doing so.  He looks and acts like the God of Thunder, and his character is very likeable, especially when he does heroic acts as a human, knowing that he can be killed.  Natalie Portman plays Thor’s love interest; and she’s cute and she’s intelligent and she’s a spitfire…and I keep thinking of those lesbian scenes in “Black Swan.” In other words, it’s always a pleasure to see her onscreen.  We also have Kat Dennings, who I think is more adorable than Portman, even though they made Dennings into a geek in this movie.  Her comments about Thor’s looks are enjoyable; and I would love for Dennings to say those things about me.

“Thor” has action, romance, violence, comedy, drama, eye candy for men and women, a solid script and good direction and editing.  What, that’s not enough for you to watch this?  Then you’re just hard to please.  What do you want me to say?

My most memorable, movie moment is the sequence when Mjolnir comes back to Thor after he proves himself worthy of the mighty weapon.  It’s one of those dramatic, heroic moments that by now you all should know really gets to me.

When I was young, I wore a homemade cape, pretending to be a superhero.  I think I would still look good in a cape.  The problem is, I’m short; and most capes are made for tall people.  It’s hard to look heroic when you trip over a cape and your face is mashed against the pavement that is covered by grease, spit, dog doo-doo, discarded food, and thousands of chemicals that will give you dozens of cancers.

I guess I’ll just stick to treating people the way I want people to treat me.  To some that is considered honorable, maybe even heroic.  No cape needed.

M

Did you see the “Clash of The Titans” remake?  I did.  Did you like it?  I thought it was okay.  Eh.  Well, however you felt for the remake, that’s how you’ll feel for the remake’s sequel, “Wrath of The Titans.”  If I had paid $12 to see this movie, I would’ve had more wrath than the Titans.  But I got the DVD from the library, and it was free (thanks, library!), so instead of having wrath I just shrugged my shoulders and went on with my day.

“Wrath…” is not based on some storyline from Greek mythology.  Sure, some of the characters are there but that’s about it.  Apparently some people in Hollywood thought the remake of “Clash of The Titans” was awesome and merited a sequel.  Maybe those same people were not thinking correctly due to the effects of whatever drugs they were using.  Whatever the case, we have a movie that has great special effects, a boring hero played by an actor who doesn’t have what it takes to carry an A-list movie, a script that needs more polishing, and editing that seemed rushed (you know how one scene ends and another begins, and you’re like, “I think there should’ve been something else put between those two”).

Sam Worthington is not worthy of playing Perseus.  In this movie or the previous one.  Not that a better actor would’ve made the movie much better — there’s only so much an actor can do with a mediocre script.  He just doesn’t have the “it factor”: that thing that makes an actor a star.  Worthington is capable, as a Honda Civic is capable of taking you from here to there; but a Jaguar XKR-S…now that’s transportation.   See the difference?

Well, “Wrath…” has Zeus complaining that people don’t pray to the gods anymore, and they are losing their powers.  To make things worse, Zeus’ bro Hades wants to release their father, Kronos, whom they imprisoned.  Kronos is a Titan, by the way.  But we have the plural version of Titan in the title.  So what other Titan is there?   I know not, as Kronos was the only Titan I saw in the movie.  Anyway, Kronos is released and Zeus tries to stop his father from destroying the world, but Zeus is weakened from battle and being tortured, and therefore needs his son, Perseus to get some weapons together to defeat Kronos.  Hmmm…I wondered throughout the movie why Perseus didn’t get the army of thousands of men to pray to Zeus to make him more powerful.  Makes sense, right?

This movie tries to have depth by dealing with father and son issues, the strength of human will, believing in yourself…I didn’t buy it.  You know why?  The main character, Perseus, was boring!  Worthington is boring!  Plus Perseus’ son always has that scared, stupid look like he’s seeing a breast for the first time.

This is a prime example of throwing a ton of money into a movie and thinking that will cure it’s ills.  Nope.  Money can buy talent, but it doesn’t increase the talents of the people you already have.

So what is my most memorable, movie moment of “Wrath of The Titans?”  The scene where Hephaestus tells some humans that the mind is the biggest trap of all.  That was deep.  How many of us allow ourselves to stagnate in life because we don’t believe in ourselves, or we’re just afraid of going for our dreams?

Playing it safe and going balls out to make our dreams come true have their merits.  I think the hard part is walking a fine line between the two.

M

“Red Tails” is one of the best, mediocre movies you’ll ever see.   It is based on the struggles of the Tuskegee Airmen (black, fighter pilots during World War II) against racism, prejudice, and German fighter pilots.  The title is derived from the unit flying P-51 Mustangs that had their tail sections painted red to distinguish themselves from the other units.

A story so promising has been ruined by writing that comes off as a first draft, directing that is usually seen in movies from the Lifetime Network, the use of nearly every war movie cliche, and editing that seems to lack purpose.  I only watched it because my friend, Ed, told me the air combat scenes were good.  Well…yeah, but then you hear the pilot chatter and even those scenes are ruined, too.  Most of the dialogue is bad.  The pilots are whoopin’ and hollering and joking so much during the dogfighting that it destroys the suspense and drama in those aerial sequences.  This first viewing of “Red Tails” is most likely my last one, also.

Now that I’ve finished trash talking this movie, I’ll talk about some of its good points.  Terrence Howard is the sole, shining star of “Red Tails.”  He is given the best dialogue, and he delivers it with such intensity that it makes all the other actors — Gooding included — look like a bunch of stand-ins.  My second compliment of this movie leads me to my most memorable, movie moment.  There is a wide shot of two Tuskegee Airmen being followed by a German plane; the T.A. planes split, with one doing a wide loop to get behind the German plane in order to destroy it.  It is a beautiful shot that shows us some of the tactics pilots use in dogfighting.

If this was an MOW (Movie Of The Week) it would be a hit, because we have lower standards for them.  But “Red Tails” came out in the theaters, and we expect more for things we pay for.   Even though I watched this for free — thanks, Queens library! — I still feel cheated.  I should send the director, screenwriters, and producers a bill for the time I spent watching their movie.

M

 

BILL FOR WATCHING “RED TAILS”

To: Director Anthony Hemingway, Screenwriters John Ridley and Aaron McGruder

You owe me, Manny, a total of $20.83 (125 minutes of “Red Tails” x $10/hour) for the wasted time I spent watching your mediocre movie.
Please remit the stated amount within 60 days, or I shall use the services of bill collectors.
Sincerely,
Manny, of mannysmemorablemoviemoments.wordpress.com

 

 

God damn, I like this movie!   Most of my favorite, action stars of the 70s, 80s and 90s in one, big, loud, bloody movie!  What Stallone did for the first movie was a minor miracle; doing it again is just plain magic.  For those of you who make fun of Stallone and think he’s this big idiot, you’re wrong.  After seeing the making of documentary of “The Expendables” and “Rambo,” I highly respect this man as a director, producer, actor, artist, and human being.  He deserves all the success he has and will continue to get.

In “The Expendables 2,” we lose Mickey Rourke, but we get Jean-Claude Van Damme!   And yes, he still can’t act!  We get Chuck Norris.  And yes, he still has the charisma of a $4.99 plank of wood at Home Depot!  Who cares, they are both in the same movie with Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Arnold, and Bruce Willis!  Anyone growing up in the 80s watching these masters of destruction knows the relevance and improbability of all these men being in the same movie.  And I should just end my review here, as what I wrote should be enough to take your butts to the theater to watch this man movie.

But for those of you lacking testosterone, for those of you who still drink Zima, for those of you who think a broken down, old Honda Civic with a huge rear wing and fart can exhaust is cool, maybe a bit more explanation is needed before you ask your parents for money so you can pay for the ticket to see “The Expendables 2.”  Okay.  In this movie, the Expendables are forced to retrieve information that’s in a safe that’s in a plane that was shot down in some third world, European country.  Van Damme, playing the lead bad guy, robs the information from the Expendables; but he makes the mistake of leaving the Expendables alive — well, most of them.  Of course, the Expendables want some payback; and they are joined by Willis and Arnold to beat the hell out of Van Damme so bad that he might just start speaking English well.

It pains me to say that the first movie is better.  I know it’s rare for a sequel to be better than its predecessor; but I was hoping this would be one of the rare exceptions, if only for the bragging rights and financial boon to the aging, action heroes.   It’s still a very good, extremely entertaining movie.  Just not as awesome as the first.  Why?   I think it was the final action sequence, which was huge.  It seemed to me a bit unfocused.  It was also devolving into cartoon violence when Willis, Arnold, and Norris were in the shots.  You just knew those guys weren’t going to be in danger at all, whereas in “The Expendables” you didn’t know who was going to make it out alive.  The editing and unarmed combat was also better in the first movie.  Better how?  They were faster.  But I understand that most of these men are in their 50s and 60s.   You can’t keep running forever.

My most memorable movie moment in “The Expendables 2” is the scene where Stallone tells Liam Hemsworth (the youngest Expendable) to take point up a hill.  Hemsworth, carrying a large caliber, sniper rifle weighing maybe 50 pounds, runs up the hill like it was nothing.  The older Expendables stop and watch Hemsworth, amazed and slightly envious of the young man’s speed and energy.

Old age comes to us all…if we’re lucky.

M

 

 

Here’s another review of a movie starring my favorite, wise-ass comic book character (not to be confused with my favorite comic book character) wearing my favorite 2 colors.   Director Sam Raimi gives us the darkest of his Spider-Man trilogy in “Spider-Man 3.”  We get 3 villains: Sandman, the new Goblin, and Venom!  “Wow” you say?  “Eh,” I say.   Superhero movies that put too many new villains in a movie tend to suffer from lack of character development of those characters and/or lack of focus.  This is partly true of “Spider-Man 3.”

The Sandman was given enough backstory so that we feel some sympathy for him: he wants to make money to give his sick daughter the proper medical care.  The new, Green Goblin has been slowly introduced to us in “Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2,” so that character is already fully developed by part 3.  No problem there.  Venom, on the other hand, takes full form in the last third of the movie, and it felt rushed to me.  And let’s not forget the new, black, Spidey costume that Venom came from.   There is too much going on here for one movie.

The black costume by itself could be the storyline for one movie.  For those who aren’t familiar with Spider-Man comics, Spidey and a bunch of superheroes left Earth to fight bad guys; and Spidey came upon this black costume and decided to take it back to Earth and use it.  Well, the new costume turned out to be an alien creature that formed a symbiotic relationship with Spidey, and at some point Spidey ditched the alien.  The alien got angry and joined with a jerk named Eddie Brock, turning Brock into Venom: basically a large, evil version of Spider-Man.   Sounds like a big story for a movie, right?  It is.  Maybe for 2 movies.   But to have all this mashed into one movie along with the Sandman and the new Green Goblin and Gwen Stacy and who really killed Uncle Ben and problems with Mary Jane…it’s like trying to take in as much of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan in 2 hours.   The rush doesn’t do the art justice.

So is it a bad movie?  Oh, no.  This is a good movie.  I give it a 7.5 out of 10, with 10 being the best.   But it could have been much better had it not had too many stories going on.  So what was going on?  Well, let me tell you about it by giving you some of my memorable, movie moments of “Spider-Man 3.”

Numero uno: when Spidey kisses Gwen Stacy while he’s upside down hanging by his web.  Yup, that same kiss he gave to M.J. in “Spider-Man.”  Their special kiss.  Their first kiss.   And he did that knowing M.J. was in the audience watching.  This is a prime example of what women talk about when they say men are clueless.  I know deep down, Parker is still feeling like a geek and he has little experience with women, but damn, dude!   He should’ve know better.  This leads to a big fight and break-up of Spidey and M.J.  I remember taking a special woman to the same restaurant many times.  A restaurant that we both found during one of our days together.  It felt weird taking another woman there, even though the first woman gave me her blessing to take others there after our romantic relationship was over.  After all, that was “our place.”  But at least I waited until it was over, and I got the go-ahead from the first woman, and we both had an understanding that we could take others there.   Not Spidey!  He just gave away that special kiss to another while he was still with M.J.  And, oh, he paid for that lack of insight.

For the second memorable, movie moment, I give you the sequence where the new, Green Goblin chases and tries to kill Spider-Man for the first time, early in the movie.  It’s memorable for how badly it was done.  It reminded me of those “Back To The Future” movies where McFly is being chased by big, bully Biff.   The tone of the sequence was wrong.  It came off as comedy/action instead of being serious and suspenseful.

The third memorable, movie moment is the sequence dealing with Peter Parker’s new, cocky attitude thanks to stress and the effects of the alien costume that he wears under his street clothes.  With cheesy, 1970s style disco/porn music playing in the background, Parker struts the streets of Manhattan like John Travolta (“Oh, my god, Spider-man — where?”) in “Saturday Night Fever.”  Snapping his fingers to music only he can hear, Parker disco points, thrusts his pelvis, and smiles at all the ladies, creeping them out.  It’s funny and a bit scary, like preachers who wear fancy suits and wear too much cologne, sweat too much, and always ends sentences with “hah!”

My most memorable, movie moment takes place near the end of the movie.  Even though this movie is old, I will be careful of my words so I don’t spoil it for people who haven’t watched this movie.  It deals with forgiveness, which I think is the spine, or theme, of “Spider-Man 3.”  Most of the main characters come to an understanding of what they’ve done, and why; and we get the feeling that from here on, they will try to be better people with whatever time they have left in this world.

That’s what I try to do every day.  I don’t always succeed, but I do make the effort.

M

It’s rare for the second movie of a trilogy to be better than its predecessor.  “Spider-Man 2” joins that rare club.  I really like this movie.  I’ve already stated most of my reasons for liking Spidey in my “Spider-Man” blog; but I forgot to add one more thing.  Spider-Man and I are built almost the same way.  Wait, why are you laughing!  I’m serious!  Well…I’m much shorter than Spider-Man, but proportionately, we’re very similar.   If there was a mini Spider-Man suit, I’d look pretty awesome in it!  Unlike Peter Parker, I didn’t get help from a radioactive bug — I had to work out.   For 27 years to be exact.   But it’s worth it, because I’m healthier than the average guy my age, and I look good in Under Armour compression shirts.   Hey, it’s not bragging if you can back it up!

Back to Spider-Man.  In this movie, we experience the strains that Peter Parker goes through as he saves the world while his private life falls apart.   Now living on his own in a tiny, broken down apartment, cash is more important, and usually elusive.  He works as a pizza delivery guy!  Can you imagine a guy who can rule a small country working a job like that!  He barely sees those whom he loves, has a hard time holding down even menial jobs, and is failing his classes — because he’s too busy fighting crime.  It’s no surprise that he has some kind of mental breakdown that manifests itself as the loss of his powers.

In one memorable, movie moment, Parker looks out of his apartment window and asks himself why should he have to sacrifice what he wants, what he needs.  This is a young man who is in a lot of mental anguish.  He wants to do the right thing and use his powers for good, as his dead, uncle Ben would’ve wanted.   “With great power comes great responsibility,” Ben once told him.  But should he spend the rest of his life being an unpaid public servant (who is sometimes hunted down by the law) and let his dreams die?

In another memorable, movie moment, Spider-Man — his mask removed — uses all his strength to stop a speeding train full of passengers from crashing through the end of the line barrier.  At the end of this effort, he passes out, and is caught by some of the passengers, who gently lift him over their heads, passing him along from hand to hand until they can lay him down safely in one of the train cars (it reminds me of paintings of Jesus being carefully taken down the cross by the ones who love him).   The passengers look at his face while he’s still passed out, and one remarks that “he’s just a kid.”  Yes, and he has the whole world upon his young shoulders.

Adding to that weight upon Parker’s shoulders is his realization that his Aunt May — who raised him as a child — is about to have her house foreclosed by the bank; and Parker is unable to help her financially.  He finds out about May’s money problem during his birthday party held in May’s house.   To make matters — and his guilt — worse, May gives him $20 as his present.   Parker is about to refuse, and May screams at him to take what little she can offer, so…he does; and allows his Aunt May to preserve a little bit of her pride.   This is the most memorable, movie moment for me.  What must it feel like to be the most powerful, unique human in the world and not be able to help the woman who raised you keep her house?

I know a woman who is as generous and beautiful as Aunt May.  It’s my mom.   And if her house was in jeopardy of being taken away by the bank, and I had Spider-Man’s powers, I wouldn’t let it happen.  If I had to rob that same bank that wants to take her house, then that’s what I would do.  It would make me a criminal, and it would bother my conscience greatly.  But I can never repay all the things my mom has done for me, so if I have to sacrifice some of my ethics and stoop to the level of a common criminal in order for my mom to keep her house, then that’s what I’ll do.  With great love comes great responsibility.

M

This movie affected me deeply.  “Grave of the Fireflies” is a Japanese animated movie that takes place during WWII.  The main characters are a teenaged boy and his little sister, who is about 4 years old.  The Japanese empire is nearing its end; American planes are bombing and strafing the country; and the two orphaned siblings fight to live every day.  Their two biggest enemies: hunger and the lack of compassion from most of the civilians they encounter.

There are no supernatural elements to this movie.   No vampires, werewolves, aliens, superhuman martial arts masters…just two little kids who only have each other during a time when the entire world was on fire.   And that is what adds to the realism of this movie.  You quickly forget that you’re watching an animated movie as you become more involved with the characters and you see the boy taking desperate measures to keep his sister safe and alive.

Setsuko, the little sister, is the most real element in “Grave of the Fireflies.”  I happen to have a 4-year-old niece living with me, and Setsuko’s actions and words are right on the money.  Watching Setsuko was like watching my niece, and that’s what made me connect to this movie more than I expected to.  To watch Setsuko go from having an abundance of energy that would usually end with fits of giggles and laughter to a quiet, sickly girl who could barely walk was upsetting.  And still she thought of her brother’s welfare, as he thought of hers as his main concern, risking his life over and over so that she can have the opportunity to heal.

Rather than choose memorable moments in this beautiful movie, I choose memorable feelings: love, loyalty, sacrifice, and loss.

The best movies go beyond entertainment, and help us to better ourselves.  I live in a house with three generations of my family.  I don’t have a wife and I don’t have kids — I never felt the need for them, preferring the simplicity of being single.   Life has a sense of humor — I know this for a fact — because as someone who doesn’t like children, I wound up living with 2 little cousins in my early adulthood; and now I live with 2 little nieces.  My interaction with them is minimal even though I know I should give more of my time to them to help ensure that they turn out to be the best adults they can be.  I’m greedy with my free time, I admit it.  But after watching this movie, my feelings changed a bit.  Their shrieks of laughter and loud playing are things I don’t find annoying anymore — instead I find them comforting as they are manifestations of energy and life that is filled with wondrous possibilities.  Their smiles from the simple joys of having a new toy or eating a sweet treat brings me back to when I was young, before cynicism and distrust crept into my life.  I guess I’ve learned to love these little rugrats.  Time to be a better uncle and spend a bit more quality time with them when I can.

Don’t get me wrong — I still don’t like children.   But I can make 2 exceptions.

M

U.S. Navy SEALs and other U.S. military units are sent to destroy the worst scums on the planet.  No, not politicians — they easily destroy themselves with whores and a hidden camera.  No, not your local, cable provider — they will ultimately be destroyed by the free content online.  No, not scientologists — with Travolta’s and Cruise’s antics, recruitment has taken a big hit.  I’m talking about SEALs destroying terrorists, drug lords, arms lords, torture lords; and doing it in a spectacularly loud way!  This is “Act of Valor.”

Here’s the overall story: SEALs are ordered to save a CIA agent who has been captured by drug/arms smugglers, then find out there’s a plot by terrorists to enter America wearing bomb vests that can go through metal detectors.   Of course, the SEALs have to suit up again and find and neutralize the threats.

A big selling point of this movie is that the SEALs are played by real, active SEALs.   It sounds good for about 5 seconds, and then you realize that they probably can’t act.  Well…considering what their job description is, the SEALs in this movie did a decent job.  I’ve been in front of a camera a few times, and it’s hard work.  So to see these non-professional actors give performances better than Van Damme or Seagal, I was impressed.   Be that as it may, had good actors been used to play the SEALs, a better movie would have resulted.   There’s only so much you can do with a person whose acting ability is severely limited, which means either the script is tailored for the actor with the lack of talent; or you put all the tough, dramatic scenes in, and watch your mediocre actors stumble through those scenes, effectively destroying them.  Either way, the movie suffers, and so do the audience.

“Act of Valor” walks a fine line between the two choices I mentioned above.  The script has its dramatic moments, yet doesn’t push the SEALs beyond what they are capable of regarding their acting.  But the purpose of this movie is to show how bad ass SEALs are when they do their job; and the sacrifices they and their families make.  “Act of Valor” does a very good job in accomplishing those missions.  So, let’s talk about certain parts of this movie.

The super duper terrorist bomb vest.  As I’ve mentioned before, this can go through a metal detector undetected as it has no metal parts.  Main terrorist dude says the wearer of this vest can stroll throughout the White House with no problem.  Hmmmm…what about the bomb sniffing dogs?  Or other equipment designed to detect explosives?  No mention of that.  Still, it’s a scary prospect.   Imagine one of these nut jobs in a crowded area like a sports stadium or shopping malls where most likely there are no explosives detecting machines or doggies present.   After a few of these vests explode in various places in America, people will panic and supposedly not leave their houses.   Our economy would collapse, the main terrorist dude says.   Eh.  I don’t think so.  Look at Israel.  They still go about their business despite all the attacks upon their country.   Also, I know that I would still go to malls to take advantage of the huge discounts stores will offer to entice people to go out shopping!   The simple fact is that all of us deal with multiple threats all the time, every day.  Drunk drivers, distracted drivers, bacteria in our food, rapists, burglars, murderers, child molesters, stalkers, parasites in our meat, take your pick.   But we still go to work.  We still hang out with our friends.   We still go to the movies, attend concerts…we just become more vigilant.

For those who enjoy first person shooting video games, this movie has some shots that feel like FPS video games.  It’s a gimmick, yes, but it does add a bit more enjoyment when seeing that gun in the middle of the screen fire into a bad guy, dropping him as the blood sprays out from the wounds.   It makes you feel like you just wasted a terrorist.  “Hoo ya, Master Chief!”

Before I talk about my memorable moments of this movie, I want to quickly say that the Tagalog to English translations (most of the terrorists were Filipino, and Filipinos mainly speak Tagalog) were sometimes wrong.  I should know — I’m Filipino.  Whoever did the translations for this movie should’ve been docked a day’s pay.

Okay, on to my memorable movie moments of “Act of Valor.”  First is when the sniper of the SEAL team kills a sentry who is by a river; and another SEAL is underwater holding his arms up so that when the body falls, the SEAL catches the dead sentry and no splash is heard.  This is killing combined with art.  Simply amazing.    Second is when a rocket from an RPG-7 (I believe that’s what the weapon was) hits a SEAL in the chest, but doesn’t explode due to the warhead being a dud.  That scene will make your heart skip a beat.

And now, the third and best memorable moment — wait, spoiler alert here!   One of the SEALs has a wife at home who is pregnant.   And he gets killed sacrificing himself to save his teammates.  At first, I couldn’t believe that the movie used this cliche.  But I think the filmmakers felt it was very important to show us that many soldiers have given all for their country and teammates; and the effect that it has on their families who have to go on without them.  That isn’t a cliche.  It’s fact.

I leave you with a quote from this movie: “Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about his religion. Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life. Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”

M

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