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Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Windtalkers (second review)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

tn_windtalkerswoozoneusaBWINDTALKERS is an American John Woo picture that I kinda hated at the time. I can prove it: here’s my review. But I watched it again and although I don’t really disagree with anything I said in that review, now I think it’s okay. Maybe this is because I watched the director’s cut, which is longer and more violent, like a real John Woo movie. Maybe it’s because I came to it with different hopes and expectations, having already not liked it. Or maybe it’s because I’ve grown and changed as a person and movie watcher since the last time. I suspect it’s a combination of all three.

This is Woo’s WWII movie, which makes sense because it’s about male bonding through violence, but also the evil of endless violence, and also a pretty invisible minority (the Navajo) reaching across cultural lines to achieve a common goal, much like Woo making movies in Hollywood. (read the rest of this shit…)

Red Tails (revisit)

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

lucasminusstarwarstn_redtailsBA great historical epic could be made about the Tuskegee airmen,  the all black squadron of American fighter pilots in WWII. That’s what George Lucas thought back in ’88 when he started developing RED TAILS. He put together a script that he compared to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (or NED OF ARABIA to Young Indiana Jones), a three-parter about their training, then their heroic battles, and then coming home to a racist country and Jim Crow laws that don’t give a shit that they’re heroes.

Eventually he decided that was too much for one movie and, like with STAR WARS, chose the middle chapter to focus on. But he also decided that he didn’t want it to be serious grown up drama. He thought it could be a fun movie for black teenagers. It’s an approach he had trouble selling to director Anthony Hemingway (The Wire), but even more to critics, who rejected the movie wholesale, often with some shaming about the movie they thought it should’ve been. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

tn_youngindylucasminusstarwarsThe Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was an ABC TV show that ran from 1992-1993. I never saw an episode. I still haven’t, because the version that’s on video is called The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones and it’s re-edited. According to legend (as well as Wikipedia) the Chronicles were hour long episodes about Indiana Jones as a young man having adventures and/or chronicles in different exotic locations. The stories would jump around in time, so sometimes it would be Sean Patrick Flanery (BOONDOCK SAINTS) as teen/early-twenties Indy, sometimes it would be Corey Carrier (school band cymbal player in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK) as 8-10 year old Indy. And the episodes would be bookended by George Hall (BIG DADDY) as 93-year-old Indy (with eye patch) remembering the stories.

Wait a minute – that would mean in the then-present day? I always think of him in the WWII era, but it turns out he stuck around a while. Think about that. Indiana Jones was around for Woodstock, for disco, for “We Are the World,” for “Baby Got Back.” If he had grand kids there might’ve been an Indiana Jones and the Elusive Cabbage Patch Doll adventure one Christmas. None of this is covered in the show though.

The first season (1992) was 6 episodes, the second season they made 22, but only aired 18 before cancelling it. Then from 1994-1996 they followed it up with four TV movies for the Family Channel. Finally, in 1999 they paired up the hour long episodes, plus a couple new ones, and re-edited them into movies, which came out on VHS and later DVD. One major change was to remove all the segments with 93 year-old Indy, so you never get to see Indiana Jones in contemporary situations, like the one where he tells the story of his teenage love of cars after seeing a monster truck at the gas station.

(Do you think they said if Indy went to movies when he was in his 90s? Do you think he saw UNDER SIEGE?) (read the rest of this shit…)

Kelly’s Heroes

Monday, January 4th, 2016

tn_kellysheroesFor four years now it’s been my tradition to kick off a new year with Clint Eastwood. This year I’m starting it with Clint and a rowdy gang of G.I. goofballs including roughneck Telly Savalas, new agey Donald Sutherland, bitter wiseass Don Rickles and young, harmonica-playing, exactly-the-same-looking Harry Dean Stanton (credited as Dean Stanton). It kinda feels like one of those fun ensemble war pictures like THE DIRTY DOZEN or THE GREAT ESCAPE, except the idea behind it is much more cynical.

Clint plays Kelly, a once great soldier, demoted and disillusioned after an incorrect order caused him to blow up some of his own men. When he finds out about a stash of gold bars in a German bank he finally has a mission he can believe in again: get together a crew to penetrate the enemy lines early and get the loot. Everyone thinks/knows it’s crazy, but the lure of the bling is enough. In fact, they have trouble with more and more people joining the group and expecting a share.

At times it can be kind of a broad comedy, and with that old timey type of military humor where they complain about their job but they just talk about hating to have to lug heavy things around, or get bossed around, they don’t talk about the psychological trauma of having to kill people, or almost being killed, or seeing their friends killed. But in a way this is a very subversive movie, because here’s The Great War, the one we can all get behind, the one that made them The Greatest Generation, and our titleistical heroes never even mention ideals or what they’re fighting for. What they end up getting behind is a big payday. (read the rest of this shit…)

Latino

Monday, December 28th, 2015

tn_latinolucasminusstarwarsIn the early ’80s, a brutal guerrilla war was going on in Nicaragua, with an army of terrorist counter-revolutionaries, or contras, fighting against the leftist Sandinista party that was in power. The contras were funded and trained by the U.S. and called “freedom fighters” by President Reagan. Most Americans didn’t really pay attention, so the cinematographer, documentarian and sometimes narrative film director Haskell Wexler – who died yesterday at the age of 93 – decided to make this fictionalized movie about it.

Eddie Guerrero (Robert Beltran, LONE WOLF MCQUADE) is an American special forces soldier following up his Vietnam tours with a secret mission in Honduras. He works with Ruben (Tony Plana, HALF PAST DEAD 1-2) to train some soldiers who go over the border into Nicaragua to fight the communist Sandanistas.

Then we meet some of these communists living on a farming cooperative. They are peasant women and teenage boys with AKs trying to defend themselves from the contras who keep coming in, burning their crops and taking their sons, forcing them to join up.

We see how that works: they come into town, spray some bullets around, throw the young men on the ground and tie them up. While they’re there Eddie doesn’t really know what’s up yet, but he wanders into an old lady’s kitchen and gets an earful about his side and how she hopes he dies. He takes one of the tortillas she’s making and eats it, so maybe he’s more of an asshole than we realized. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kagemusha

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

tn_kagemushalucasminusstarwarsIn 1980, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola presented a film by Akira Kurosawa, KAGEMUSHA. It opens with a five minute static shot of three almost identical looking characters sitting in a throne room in their fancy robes, two of them talking about the other one. You got the emperor Shingen there in the middle and his brother is on his right telling him about the guy on his left, how he spotted this petty thief about to be executed and noticed that he looked like the emperor and would make a good double for him. Sure enough he’s a dead ringer. It’s a real good find, this could work out great, right? But the double is kind of belligerent and crazy, and also he very reasonably chafes at the idea of being called a criminal by a guy who has killed thousands in wars and executions.

Maybe with some training though?

I guess people compare KAGEMUSHA to that movie DAVE, where Kevin Klein is a lookalike who has to replace the president, but I haven’t seen that one, so I’ll compare it to FACE/OFF, where a cop pretends to be a criminal? I don’t know. Anyway, the job gets more serious when the emperor gets hit by a sniper and before dying makes his boys promise to keep his death a secret for three years. I didn’t get this at first, but I think it’s because his heir is his grandson, a little boy. Gotta let him grow up to be at least 7 or 8 before tossing him in the deep end. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ahlaam

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

tn_ahlaamI’ve spent a good portion of the last two weeks thinking, reading, writing and debating about Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER. It’s an interesting movie that has spurred alot of debate from different points-of-view. But the important perspective that isn’t in the movie or in the conversation as far as I’ve been able to see is that of the Iraqi people. Clint followed his WWII movie FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS with the way better companion piece LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, from the perspective of doomed Japanese soldiers. I wish he could do that for the Iraq War too.

It’s too bad, I thought, that there’s not much of a film industry in Iraq, because that would be a great way for us to see the war and its effects through their eyes. Well, it turns out that a couple such movies do exist. One of them is AHLAAM (2004), based on a true story about the people in a psychiatric hospital in Baghdad during the 2003 “shock and awe” bombing a few days before the fall of Saddam Hussein.
(read the rest of this shit…)

American Sniper

Monday, January 26th, 2015

tn_americansniperAMERICAN SNIPER is a pretty good movie. I wouldn’t rank it too high in the pantheon of Clint Eastwood directorial works, and it’s definitely not one of the all time great war movies, or even the best movie about the Iraq war. It has some overlap with THE HURT LOCKER without being as effective, in my opinion, either as a thriller or as a character study. And obviously we gotta deduct points for it not being a story about a very old sniper played by Clint. But it’s a very good performance by Bradley Cooper (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN), it looks into an interesting world (that of the Navy SEAL sniper), it has several tense battle sequences, and it speaks about the experiences of soldiers with some of the quiet simplicity and understatedness I appreciate in an Eastwood picture. That last part is causing a problem.

In many ways it feels different from the rest of Clint’s filmography, but it returns him to one of his favorite themes: the man who has lived a life of violence having a hard time doing something else. Instead of an old outlaw it’s “most lethal sniper in U.S. military history” Chris Kyle (played by Cooper with some extra muscle, facial scruff and Texan drawl), who goes through four tours of duty in Iraq, more than his share, but every time he tries to live a peaceful life with his family he starts itching to be back in combat. It also reminds me a little bit of Clint’s movie J. EDGAR, another biopic of an extreme character that refuses to condemn him. It just presents him, tries to give him a fair shake, shows him as a human, for better or worse.

With most of Clint’s directing-not-acting movies these days (JERSEY BOYS, HEREAFTER, CHANGELING, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, etc.) it’s the same routine: a bunch of people say they suck, I see them and like them, but don’t really know many people who bothered to see them, and the world moves on. Even when he does what seems like a crowd-pleasing awards-bait type movie, like INVICTUS, the academies and what not don’t give much of a shit, and Clint doesn’t care that they don’t. Why would he? Who needs another trophy when you wake up every morning and you’re still Clint fucking Eastwood?

But AMERICAN SNIPER is different. It was nominated for 6 Oscars including best picture, and when it went into wide release last weekend it immediately became a smash hit, the biggest opening of Clint’s career. Also, it’s one of those movies that not only sells tickets, but that people apparently like. It has an A+ Cinemascore and an 89% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (His previous three movies as director rated 65%, 45% and 38%). (read the rest of this shit…)

G.I. Jane

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

tn_gijaneGI JANE is way classier than its male counterparts RISE OF COBRA, RETALIATION and THE MOVIE, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much of a straight-ahead action movie it is, complete with triumphant music by Trevor Jones (CLIFFHANGER), themes of fight brotherhood and many a badass training montage. It’s built around the idea of Demi Moore having to achieve a level of physical toughness never officially reached by a woman before, which is a little far-fetched, I know. But the actress acquits herself admirably, obviously trained intensely and shows off in many sweaty pull-up and one-armed pushup scenes like an ’80s Dolph, Stallone or Van Damme movie might have. I think maybe Ridley Scott was on a mission to one-up what James Cameron did with Linda Hamilton in T2. To get him back for ALIENS.

It’s also an issue movie, inspired by the debate of whether or not to allow women in combat in the U.S. military. Moore plays Jordan O’Neill, a lieutenant in military intelligence who knows her shit far beyond expectations. If she were a man she probly would’ve moved to some sort of special ops team where she could take advantage of her expertise, but women aren’t allowed there.

Until now. When a female senator (Anne Bancroft) cleverly throws her weight around at a confirmation hearing and gets the military to agree to a number of women-in-combat test cases, O’Neill is chosen as a good poster girl – skilled, but not too butch. So she gets to try out for the Navy SEALs. This was before they were known for killing Osama bin Laden, this is when they were known as Jesse Ventura’s buddies. But they were among the toughest of the tough. They bring in the very best special ops soldiers and even most of those guys drop out before Hell Week is over. So it’s a hell of a challenge for her. It’s a grueling test of strength and endurance that only a small percentage of men can hope to survive, not believed possible for a woman. And that’s not even figuring in the likelihood that nobody there wants a woman to be able to do it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fury

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

tn_furyFURY is an intense, well-made WWII movie. It doesn’t feel like just another forgettable same ol’ same ol’ type of war picture. For one thing, the focus on the crew of one tank makes for some unique and thrilling combat scenes. One battle scene in particular really shows the strategy of tank on tank action. They’re like pirate ship battles waged from inside vans. Or like giant turtles trying to outmaneuver each other. Not all battles are just about who has the most guns. And filming inside real tanks really adds to the realistic feel I think. It’s pretty damn cool.

Also it’s a more violent movie than most, or at least more effectively violent. Always good to hear somebody in the back of the theater loudly gasp right at the beginning of a movie. I guess somebody thought this was gonna be about nice, polite combat.

But I think FURY is signifying something too, and I’m still processing what I think about that. Writer/director David Ayer last did the really enjoyable Schwarzenegger movie SABOTAGE, which was a more fun and pulpy version of his usual topic, the Burnt Out Cops That Cross the Line (END OF WATCH, HARSH TIMES, STREET KINGS, TRAINING DAY). And this is kinda like the soldier version of that.

(read the rest of this shit…)