Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Retreat, Hell! Battle: Los Angeles is fought admirably

In 1996, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin brought us the greatest Extra Terrestrial invasion movie ever, Independence Day. Since then there been a few attempts to address the very real possibility of invasion; Signs, War Of The Worlds, The Day The Earth Stood Still and Skyline to name but a few. Alas they were all exceedingly boring in comparison to ID4. Why? Because no one was shooting back at the aliens and killing them.

I followed the development of Battle: Los Angeles for many months ever since my aggregation software pulled the search term "U.S. Marines" and "aliens" automatically from the news wire. I became intrigued when I discovered that Chris Bertolini the writer of one of my favourite military thrillers - The General's Daughter, was scripting a tale of invasion focusing on a small unit of Marines with Aaron The Dark Knight Eckhart and my favourite Hollywood bad-girl Michelle Rodriguez [Avatar] in starring roles. In addition, director Jonathan Liebesman said he would take his inspiration from modern war-movies and adopt a style from watching footage of real U.S. Forces in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Eckhart plays Staff Sergeant Nantz who has had his discharge papers signed on the morning that Extra Terrestrials inconveniently decide to invade the planet. Nantz is pressed into service to replace an absent platoon sergeant in Echo Company, 2/5 when they are quickly mobilised to defend Los Angeles. Nantz and newly-minted butterbar lieutenant Martinez [Ramón Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Rodríguez] lead their men on a mission which plays out pretty much like Saving Private Ryan but then soon becomes Black Hawk Down, but obviously with the added elements of Extra Terrestrials.

Eckhart was a great if unusual choice for Nantz, he's square-jawed enough for a battle-hardened Marine NCO and went through a tough training cycle in weapons training and drills before he and the other actors were in a boot camp situation for 3 weeks. Eckhart adopted "the method" for the movie and "became" SSgt Nantz for the duration of filming. Upon breaking his upper arm when he fell off a ledge during an action sequence, he continued to work for the remainder of filming without having it put in a cast as that opportunity would not have been available in the field. Rodriguez portrayed Air Force Intelligence Technical Sergeant Elena Santos and should be given credit for not following her usual moody authority-bucking persona as she joins up with the Marines after being separated from her parent unit. The rest of the cast is rounded out with Cory Hardrict, Gino Anthony Pesi, Ne-Yo, James Hiroyuki Liao, Adetokumboh McCormack and Michael Shooter Peña with Bridget Blue Bloods Moynahan.

Character development sadly didn't seem to be on the agenda for this movie. Only Nantz really got fleshed out in any way. He is retiring despite not knowing what he'll quite do with himself. He has a certain amount of survivor's guilt after being the only one to remain alive after his entire platoon was ambushed in Afghanistan and he doesn't have any children although somehow he's learned to communicate with them. We learn all this of course throughout the course of the movie and it's somewhat lacking script.

The script is fairly diabolical, let’s be honest here. This is so far from Shakespeare it’s not even as good as a small child attempting to rewrite Shakespeare with a pack of crayons. The only explanation is Bertolini must have had some sort of stroke or something since he wrote The General's Daughter. The judgement of the script is highlighted by one extraordinarily dramatic moment when Nantz is challenged by one of his men, whose brother was one of the Marines that died under his leadership. Nantz proceeds to list the name, rank and service numbers of all the men KIA under his command including Cpl. Lockett’s brother proving that he will never forget them [yes Guns I used to be able to do that before I made Major – but by then there was just too many to recall from memory] but then an instant later he says: “but that’s not important right now” – a heinous sidelining of something that is always important least we forget that we are not invincible.

Despite the script's flaws, it does work in delivering several motivational speeches, while not quite President Whitmore’s flawlessly magnificent speech from ID4, do serve to increase heart rate and adrenaline production at key moments before major battle sequences. The Marines from Pendleton who advised the cast and crew obviously did a lot with the lingo and terminology and there was none of the bullshit as I'd notice with many other movies these days. There was no Bay-alogue is what I'm saying and that's refreshing.

Liebesman as it turns out is a competent director and is successful in delivering what he promised me so many months ago. He instructed cinematographer Lukas Ettlin to rely on shaky cam a lot and unfortunately some people whose brains can process images fast enough complain about that sort of thing but those of you with correctly functioning eye to brain processing speeds won't find any problem. One of the most sought-after and prolific composers in the movie, TV and Video Game industry Brian Tyler, composed a magnificently powerful and deeply haunting score that fit this movie like a fingerless glove leaving room for the the incredible scoundscape which made more use of DTS then any other movie I've seen this year.

Aaron Eckhart said that the objective of the film was to make as realistic an alien invasion movie as possible and for the most part it was. You won't find Biplanes with nukes or Apple Macs disabling motherships here. What I was glad to see was that the invaders were not depicted as having extraordinarily superior technology beyond the wildest imagination of man. Instead, they used projectile weapons and portable rail-guns. While armoured, they had weak spots that could be exploited as well as a command and control system that could be eliminated. They seemed to operate in a military structure with officers, grenadiers, heavy weapons personnel, scouts, medics, support aircraft and drones, basically the gamut of conventional forces that Marines have been defeating for 236 years. There have been some who have said that it’s unrealistic that only a handful of Marines accomplished what an entire army could not during the course of the film. Those that think that’s not plausible obviously have absolutely no comprehension of the specific history of 2nd BN, 5th Marines or even the tenacity, resourcefulness, courage or the most basic capabilities of every United States Marine. Oorah!!!

Final Verdict: This is not Independence Day 2, it cannot be universally liked and will not gross $800m. It's not grotesquely violent, yet is not suitable for children. It is an war movie in the vein of Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan and The Hurt Locker. It's niche is in it's realism and factual portrayal of Marines in urban combat against a fictional enemy and it will appeal to both those who seek that out as well as "the video-game crowd." Only cowards will miss this one.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****

The Colonel would like to take the opportunity to categorically deny at this point that UNETIDA provided funding for this movie as anti- Extra Terrestrial propaganda or as a public information service to give people prior warning that the events in this movie are about to happen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Supreme violence Clad in Iron

I'll admit I've not always been first in line to see British cinema. British films rarely promote action and excitement over "worthy substance" and "remarkable acting performances" and thusly are not so thrilling to watch. There have been a few exceptions to this rule however, Dog Soldiers, 28 Weeks Later and Reign of Fire are some recent examples of excellence from the United Kingdom and I'm pleased to be able to add Ironclad to this list.

Ironclad's plot is exceeding simple [if you have some knowledge of history] but not all that important. In 1215, the rebel barons of England forced the much despised King John [gloriously hammed-up by Paul Shoot 'Em Up Giamatti] to sign the Magna Carta, a noble, seminal document that upheld the rights of freedom. However before long John reneged and assembled a mercenary force with the intention of bringing the barons and therefore the country back under his control. The only obstacle in his path is the bastion of Rochester Castle from which the land and commercial paths in the region were controlled. Baron Albany [Brian Cox] a conscientious landowner who was instrumental in creating the Magna Carta assembles a ragtag group of warriors to hold out for months against King John's siege.

Among those defending the castle is a Templar knight named Marshall [James Soloman Kane Purefoy] who is questioning his devotion to his cause. Marshall is stilled in the art of war and is instrumental in leading the seriously outnumbered group of defenders all while trying to resist the charms of Lady Isabel [Kate Shooter Mara], wife of the lord of the castle [Derek Gladiator Jacobi].

All this however is just a frame for easily the most incredible battle scenes I've ever seen put to British celluloid. The action and violence is more close and personal then you'd imagine a castle siege to be. Despite director Johnathan English not having any noteworthy experience, he put true passion and power into directing and framing every swing of a sword and penetration of an arrow. The blood flowed in torrents of crimson and at times made even me wince as your conscious mind suddenly made sense of what appendage had been severed from the character or nameless soldier on screen. My friends, this is the only movie I've seen a man's arm hacked off at the shoulder with a hand axe and later the severed appendage is used as a weapon to bludgeon another man's skull to a pulp - Creative, Entertaining, Sublime.

Final Verdict: I repeat: a man's arm hacked off at the shoulder with a hand axe and later the severed appendage is used as a weapon to bludgeon another man's skull... I'll carry that wonderful memory forever.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tactical Recovery of Aircraft Personnel mission successful

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Eagle based in RAF Lakenheath, England, which was flying out of Aviano Air Base, Italy in support of the no-fly-zone, crash landed in Libya in the early hours of the morning after suffering engine failure.

The pilot and weapons officer were separated when they ejected at 23:33 local time and parachuted to safety near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Rebels rescued the weapons officer from a field of sheep but a U.S. Marine squadron with Ch-53Es, AV-8B Harriers with two V-22B Ospreys rescued the pilot closer to the crash site.

The Daily Mail has reported however that the Marines opened fire on the Libyan civilians who were on their way to assist the pilot.

Pentagon officials declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Colonel's Bullets - March 19th 2011

RoboCop statue update

The group intending to erect the statue have got the funding and have confirmed that moulds, materials and the artists and craftsmen needed to accomplish the statue are almost ready.

RoboCop star Peter Weller released this wacky video for Funny or Die:

Wonder Woman

Warner Bros. have released an image of Adrianne Palicki in her ultra-reflective Wonder Woman costume. I have little interest in the project as it's produced by David E. Kelly who [with the exception of Boston Legal] only makes TV shows for women. However I'm glad that they havn't made the new stupid jacket as part of the costume.

The Wolverine

Darren Aranofski, the untalanted director of Black Swan will now not direct The Wolverine. I had no interest in seeing what he was going to do with Hugh Jackman and a character who admittadly disn't get the best treatment in the past two movies he appeared in, but at least now I can begin an intrest in the movie as Aranofski will not be behind the lens.

Michael Gough R.I.P.

Michael Gough, the British character actor best known for his role as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s trusted, ever-available butler in the four Batman movies between 1989 and 1997, died Thursday at his home in England. He was 94.

But in an acting career that spanned seven decades, Gough also had roles in more than 150 movies, television shows and stage productions. Last year he supplied the voice of the Dodo Bird in the Tim Burton movie Alice in Wonderland.

Action on Libya!

As of 14:00GMT today, Libyan tanks were on the streets of the main rebel-held city of Benghazi. A a fighter jet was shot down earlier this morning and explosions have been heard.

Since then, World leaders from many Western and Middle Eastern countries, including the Arab nations of Jordan, Qatar and the UAE have met in Paris to discuss military action and have signalled that such action is now inevitable.

President Sarkozy says international leaders have agreed to use "all the necessary means - in particular, military means" to enforce the UN Security Council resolution and it is a duty to support Arab people and counter the "murderous madness" in Libya

Prime Minister David Cameron, says that Colonel Gadaffi has lied to the world, he had flouted international law and broken the ceasefire and it is vital that "action takes place urgently" to prevent further civilian deaths.

British, French and Canadian aircraft will be the first assets deployed to police the no-fly zone and take part in any authorised strike missions against Libyan tanks and ground forces believed to be in action against civilians.

Yesterday after weeks of hesitation and divisions among his advisers, President Obama endorsed military action against Colonel Gadaffi, saying U.S. values and credibility are at stake to stop “the potential for mass murder” of innocents. The full range U.S. firepower stands ready, including ships and submarines armed with Tomahawks which could eliminate air defenses and other potential targets early in allied military action.

Col. Gaddafi's spokesman sent a threatening message to the West saying: "You will regret it if you take a step towards intervening."

Friday, March 11, 2011

I have to take Paul down a Pegg

Paul, the latest movie from comedy duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who both starred together in the pants-wettingly hilarious Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, is a tale of two British Sci-Fi nerds who visit San Diego Comicon and subsequently go on a road trip across the U.S. in their trusty camper van, with the intention of visiting famous UFO related sites like the Area 51 mailbox. Along the way however they encounter a real live alien by the name Paul [voiced by Seth Rogan] who is being hotly pursued by a relentless FBI Agent Lorenzo Zoil [Jason Bateman].

The movie is a fairly amiable if a formulaic “comedy chase movie” that will appeal to movie going audiences who like that sort of thing as well as fart-jokes and liberal use of the word cock-sucker. It is certainly a homage to Sci-Fi in general and Spielberg in particular, with some hilarious in-jokes that unfortunately will alienate a third of the people who see it, the other third of people will also be alienated as they’re the die-hard “Holy Joe” types who are easily offended by the dismissal of Christianity as a pointless waste of time and would probably never lighten up, so screw 'em.

This is one of these ensemble cast movies where you'll have plenty of "Oh look, it's XXX from YYY" which includes SNL's Kristen MacGruber Wiig and Bill Superbad Hader. Wiig is a convincing cycloptic bible basher and Hader makes a great career-chasing G-Man. Jane Lynch, Blythe Danner, David Koechner and John Carroll Lynch are the famous faces that round out the movie's cast.

Sadly, I had problems with this movie. On a basic level I think it was just too “American” for the traditionally British Pegg/Frost team and it had a budget. Now that’s hardly an issue for 99% of what I watch obviously but I must have different expectations for the Pegg/Frost team despite this movie not being the third part of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy.

Pegg's Hollywood success means that whenever he now appears, there will probably be serious money involved, maybe not for Pegg himself but certainly for the projects he’s involved in. The budget for this movie was insane at $50m; What it must have cost for an hour of CGI antics for the title character alone is phenomenal. Pegg was used to working wonders up to now with a low to modest amount of money but once serious money takes over it all falls apart. Well that and the fact that it's obviously Edgar Wright is the brains behind the outfit and as he wasn't on this movie it could account for it's disappointment in the writing stakes. Wright himself failed to impress with the abysmal Scott Pilgrim last year which further compounds the proof that Pegg and Wright need to write together to create something good, a comedy movie needs good writing for it to be successful and Pegg/Frost have shown us that they can't do it alone.

Final Verdict: If you're a fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz then give this a miss and wait for The World's End. If you're a Sci-Fi nerd and want a few humorous laughs with some genuine comedy talent but with little by way of substance then this is for you.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ms. Kenny's first day

The 31st Dáil convened at 12:00 yesterday where first order of business was to appoint Sean Barrett as Ceann Comhairle. The members of the house approved the decision but already Shinner Commander Adams tried to cause trouble by suggesting the Ceann Comhairle should be appointed from the opposition - in fairness Adams isn't used to a real parliament coming from one that had to make up rules in order to include everyone.

At 14:00, Enda Kenny was voted in as the 13th [unlucky for some?] Taoiseach . He said he was entering into a covenant with the public and that "Honesty was his only policy" [the five-point plan already a memory then?]. 10 minutes later he left government buildings to travel to Áras an Uachtaráin where he received his seal of office and seal of Government from President Mary McAleese at 14:45.

The new Taoiseach returned to Leinster House to his new office from where he would deliberate his final decisions on his new cabinet before announcing them at 16:45. However it was not until 17:20 that Mr. Kenny returned to the Dáil floor to announce his new cabinet including Eamon Gilmore as Tánaiste & Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Michael Noonan as Minister for Finance and the strange appointment of Alan Shatter as Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence which puts both the Gardaí and the Military under the auspices of the one minister [that happens to have a Captain Kirk fetish].

At 19:55, The house motion to approve the Cabinet nominees was carried. Mr. Kenny adjourned the Dáil until Tuesday and travelled with the Cabinet appointees to Áras an Uachtaráin to receive their seals of office from the president at 21:15.

What will not be in the public accounts however is that before his departure from Áras an Uachtaráin Mr. Kenny was led by the president's aide-de-camp to a secret room where he was introduced to Colonel "Whopper" Creedon of UNETIDA. The U.S. Marine officer explained Ireland's past, present and future commitments to the agency as well as revealing facts about Extra Terrestrials to the Taoiseach that few outside the organisation know.

The main newsworthy headline around here tonight however is that The New York Times published an article to inform readers that Enda Kenny had been sworn in as Taoiseach. The article however made a number of references to "Ms. Kenny" while informing readers of the latest Irish political news. It wasn't long however before the paper issued a profuse apology and a correction. Perhaps they shouldn't have been so hasty because Mr. Kenny is due to meet [and most likely to be arse raped by] the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso this evening in Brussels as he begins his campaign to re-negotiate the terms of the EU/IMF bailout, so we'll see if he actually does have balls.

Monday, March 07, 2011

“I’m tired of pretending I’m not a total bitchin’ rock star from Mars.”

Carlos Irwin Estevez better known to the world as Charlie Sheen, a man who has a star on the Walk of Fame, has been a household name since his early appearances in such '80's movies as Red Dawn, Platoon and Wall Street. In the '90's he took on more questionable roles in Navy SEALs, The Rookie and The Three Musketeers but mastered comedy as Topper Harley in the Hot Shots! movies. At the turn of the century Sheen stepped onto the small screen and won an Emmy when he replaced Michael J. Fox on Spin City before becoming the highest paid actor on television on Two and a Half Men.

Sheen has never been presumed to be a saint. He has shot Kelly Preston, has dated porn stars, has OD'd on cocaine and had such a bitter divorce with Denise Richards that he made Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger look like a happily married couple. However recently things have taken a such a turn for the worst and despite my declaration that I'd no longer pay attention to celebrity gossip after wasting so much time on Paris Hilton and Tom Sizemore, I really feel it's necessary to address the worlds newest "Warlock" Charlie Sheen because it appears he has now completely lost it.

“The nights I don’t sleep it’s because there’s a higher calling telling me to stand guard.”

A couple of weeks ago, CBS shut down production on Two and a Half Men so Sheen could attend rehab after making headlines with a particularly out-of-control party, but Sheen was having none of it and said in an open letter:

What does this say about Haim Levine [show creator Chuck Lorre] after he tried to use his words to judge and attempt to degrade me. I gracefully ignored this folly for 177 shows ... I fire back once and this contaminated little maggot can't handle my power and can't handle the truth. I wish him nothing but pain in his silly travels especially if they wind up in my octagon. Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words -- imagine what I would have done with my fire breathing fists. I urge all my beautiful and loyal fans who embraced this show for almost a decade to walk with me side-by-side as we march up the steps of justice to right this unconscionable wrong.

Remember these are my people ... not yours...we will continue on together...

..and yes, you read all that right. Later Sheen challenged Lorre to a fight and "if he wins, then he can leave MY show." He said he entered at-home rehab and that he is "100 percent" clean. "Here is your first pee test," he said to radio host Alex Jones, adding the "next one goes in your mouth. No, you won't get high." Sheen also spoke out against Alcoholics Anonymous calling them a "bootleg cult" with a success rate of 5 percent. "I am special and I will never be one of you... I have a disease? Bulls***. I cured it ... with my mind."

"Duh, winning! It's, like, guys, IMDB right there, 62 movies and a ton of success. I mean, c'mon bro, I won best picture at 20. I wasn't even trying. I wasn't even warm."

On Good Morning America, Sheen called his life: "perfect. It's awesome. Every day is just filled with just wins. All we do is put wins in the record books,” he said. “We win so radically in our underwear before our first cup of coffee, it's scary. People say it's lonely at the top, but I sure like the view."

Sheen wasn't happy that none off his sitcom co-stars spoke up to defend him and added: "I'm not trying to embarrass you or ruin your jobs or ruin the show. It would be nice if there was some measure of support though -- from anybody. Anybody. That's all right. Every great movement begins with one man and I guess that's me."

It's little wonder that at that point Sheen’s longtime publicist Stan Rosenfield had enough and quit. "I have worked with Charlie Sheen for a long time and I care about him very much,” Rosenfield told Us Weekly. “However, at this time, I’m unable to work effectively as his publicist and have respectfully resigned.”

“I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available because if you try it once your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.”

His father Martin Sheen told the media that he was praying for him and asked all this friends whom his son would listen to, to to help him but some sage advice came from the possibly equally mentally disturbed actor Gary Busey: "Charlie's got to understand what the truth is. The beautiful thing about the truth is that it requires no questions." While it's just as insane as Sheen's rambling and about as useful to him as a handle on a snowball; let it not be misunderstood how bad things are when Gary Busey is offering you advice.

On drugs, Charlie Sheen said: "I just don't do it. I will not believe that if I do something then I have to follow a certain path because it was written for normal people. People who aren't special. People who don't have tiger blood and Adonis DNA. The last time I took drugs I probably took more that anyone could survive. I was banging seven gram rocks because that’s how I roll, I have one speed, go. I'm different. I have a different constitution, I have a different brain, I have a different heart. I got tiger blood, man. Dying's for fools, dying's for amateurs.”

I'll give him until July...

Sources: ABC, FOX,CNN, MSNBC, TMZ and dozens of random sources - Sheen is everywhere -a Warlock with Tiger Blood!!!!!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Oscars 2011

The 83rd Academy Awards took place Sunday night. The British film The King's Speech was the big winner for Screenplay, Actor [Mr. Firth as I predicted], Director Hooper and Best Picture. Portman secured her place as Best Actress [as I predicted], Bale - Best Supporting Actor [as I predicted]. Melissa Leo dropped an F-Bomb during her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress so she should get a special award from Conan O'Brien for that if she graces his show.

Toy Story got the animated movie award [as I predicted] and Inception received 4 technical Oscars [I predicted at least one]. The Social Network and Alice in Wonderland also received awards and strangely one of the worst movies of the year, The Wolfman got an Oscar. I'd not consider the Make-up effects Oscar-worthy at all but the other movies in the category were nominated for making made people look war-torn or older so it wasn't a very competitive category.

As for the presenters, I was not very impressed with Franco or Hathaway. Franco seemed subdued, but I think anyone would next to Hathaway who seemed like she popped a few "uppers" before going on stage. She was giddy and giggly and went completely over the top with excitement. That said, the presenters showed great respect for their award-receiving peers. The opening sequence was a spectacularly produced montage of the Oscar hopeful movies with Hathaway and Franco superimposed seamlessly within the movies [and with special appearances by Alec Baldwin and Morgan Freeman]. They could have done with a lot more jokes for the remainder of the show however. It felt as if the writers abandoned the Oscars this year. It was evident from Billy Crystal's appearance that he brought his own materiel and had more puns in his brief time on stage than in all of Franco and Hathaway's performance over the whole 3 hours, but I guess they did their best with what they were given.

I wonder what we'll be fed next year?