Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movie Mini-Reviews 30-11-11


In this crime drama, Ryan Gosling portrays a nameless Hollywood Stuntman who moonlights as a Driver for the criminal underworld. It is similar in many respects to the 1978 Walter Hill movie The Driver but is a very different beast. Some may even call Drive a modern Western in it's execution.

Drive is directed by the little-known Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and  features excellent performances from Brian Cranston and Carey Public Enemies Mulligan with cameos from Ron [I'm in a dozen movies this year] Perlman and Christina Mad Men Hendricks. Cliff Martinez takes us back to the '80s with his vibe for the score.

I don't normally appreciate crime movies where somehow lawless nefarious actions are glorified on screen but I was intrigued by this movie as grotesque violence was promised after I heard that several reviewers had walked out of a press screening in disgust. This "extreme gore" was certainly delivered and it features some truly shocking moments not seen since Scorcese's The Departed. Sadly however these moments of violence are too few and far between to recommend the movie outside of its niche audience. Exciting at times but the time waiting between its violent and exciting moments can drag a bit.

Colonel Creedon Rating: **1/2

Johnny English Reborn

Johnny English, British comedy’s answer to James Bond was expertly brought to life by Rowan Mr. Bean Atkinson in a 2004 movie with Natalie Imbruglia and John Malkovich. It apparently made a mint but it still took 6 years for a sequel to emerge, an eternity in movie making terms for an industry which seems intent on turning out sequels in the fastest humanly possible time. Johnny English’s producers however bided their time with Johnny English Reborn and despite bringing nothing relatively new to the formula it was good enough to equal it’s progenitor.

Rubber-faced Atkinson naturally returns as the elite secret agent, elite that is on being almost oblivious to what’s going on around him. The movie explains in-universe why it’s been so long since the sequel – a protection detail in Mozambique [cue nervous twitch] some years ago wiped the shine off Johnny’s star and he fell out of favour with MI7. Since then he’s been holed up in a Tibetan monastery learning how to use his wits to solve problems and to ignore pain by dragging boulders with his genitals. Needless to say a situation arises that needs his “unique” talents and he returns to civilisation and the agency where he puts his training to work. He still remains oblivious to the larger picture and retainis his sense of superior arrogance which almost constantly backfires with much hilarity.

There are some great action scenes and almost Bond-class set pieces. While far from the class of Edgar Wright or Will Ferrel, William Davies has woven an expectantly implausible plot that a blind man could see the climax of before the end of the first act, this of course is to cement the idea that everyone watching is more observant that Johnny himself. Atkinson is supported on screen by Gillian X-Files Anderson as Pegasus the head of MI7, Dominic Centurion West as Agent Ambrose, Rosamund Die Another Day Pike as Kate and Daniel Kaluuya as Tucker. A worthy sequel in the same vein as the original. Fans will be satisfied.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****


We all know our disaster movies, earthquakes, volcanoes, meteor strikes, modern ice-ages, the sun being blocked out and even some Zombie movies can be shoe-horned into that category. But perhaps the most chilling, because it’s more believable, is the global pandemic. SARS, H1N1, Bird-Flu have been recent buzz words to signal the end or humanity but were dealt with before annihilating all life on the planet. When it was announced that “realistic” director Steven Soderbergh would be bringing us Contagion, one knew that while you'd be fed a jarringly grim tale, humanity would win out in the end.

Despite it's well researched viral science - praised by science writers and vaccination experts [as well as an "official" nod of approval from the CDC], this is still high drama as opposed to a documentary and thusly entertaining.  The movie has some outstanding performances from a plethora of famous faces; Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lawrence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Collitard and Kate Winslet lend their acting chops to this well directed and hauntingly scored [by Cliff Martinez] movie. They are supported by Brian Cranston who made an excellent Admiral with the Public Health Commissioned Corps and Elliot Gould who had been long absent from the silver screen.

I know there was plenty of laughing and sneezing after watching Outbreak in 1995, but this was so evocative of reality that there was no such nonsense here. Gripping stuff.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

Machine Gun Preacher

Machine Gun Preacher is unusually entertaining for a true story that wouldn’t be really out of place in the realm of Kris Kristofferson/Sally Field Lifetime movies – albeit late at night when intense violence could be permitted. Gerard 300 Butler plays Sam Childers an ex-con who swiftly returns to his biker-gang drug-using ways upon his release from prison. In his absence his stripper trailer-trash wife Lynn [2-time Whopper Award Winner Michelle Monaghan] finds Jesus and helps Sam on his road to redemption. Not only does Sam himself find Jesus, work, start his own construction company, build a non-denominational church in which he becomes a preacher but he also travels to The Sudan during the height of civil war to build an orphanage and rescue young South-Sudanese children from the hands of those of the North who kidnap them to be child-soldiers and sex-slaves.

It’s this “rescuing” that provides the true meat of the movie. Sam is not military trained – he just “likes his guns” and he seems to relish being in an environment where he can shoot people and not be frowned upon by either the law or The Lord. His journey is even more fascinating when you know it’s true although Christian groups have slammed the movie for it’s unnecessary focus on Childers’ most violent actions as opposed to his deeply spiritual journey – a fact that I insist on rewarding with stars!

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hypersonic Weapon tests successful

The Pentagon announced this week that on Nov 17th it successfully test fired an Advanced Hypersonic Weapon [above], understood to be one of a number of alternatives [including the Falcon programme] under consideration as part of it’s "prompt global strike" system that can deliver long-range weapons anywhere in the world while avoiding flying over third-party nations as revealed through a congressional report earlier in the year.

The missile was launched from Hawaii and reached its target on Kwajalein atoll, part of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific 3700km away in less than 30 minutes by exceeding Mach 5. Such a hypersonic weapon concept flies at a relatively flat trajectory within the atmosphere, rather than soaring up toward space like a ballistic missile and eventually coming back down.

The Department of Defence said "The objective of the test is to collect data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flight." Nonetheless defence analysts Global say the aim of the programme is to be able to strike a target 6000km away in 35 minutes, with an accuracy of 10m. They claim the weapon is part of a programme to allow a conventional weapon to strike "fleeting targets around the globe faster than today's munitions".

The X-51 Missile is another Hypersonic Weapon in development

The Tinfoil Helmet Brigade [THB] a group of UFOlogists and conspiracy theorists believe that the AHW is part of a UNETIDA project to quickly destroy Extra Terrestrial assets that successfully evade the orbital defence grid and make planetfall. There was no statement from UNETIDA in response as their Office of Public Affairs is currently being audited by the Special Investigations Committee.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So Long Afghanistan

Sadly the work of Task Force Razor is at an end, but and it had a hell of a ride over the past 10 years. A super-secret multi-service Tier-1 Special Operations unit commanded directly from "someone" in the NMCC. It began with 48 operators in 2001 who rotated in and out every few months to form four six-man standard teams. It'll make a great TV show one day if only they could ever declassify anything we did, but I think it's somewhat unlikely.

The Colonel [right] with a Name/Rank-classified operator of TF Razor in late 2011

With the death of  42 of the operators over the course of OEF and with no orders to replace the fallen; it was certain that the days of TF Razor were coming to an end. I rotated back in earlier in the month to lead a series of suitably suicidal but successful missions in a classified urban area but before extraction after the final mission, a building collapsed, killing 3 of the remaining operators and seriously injuring another. The only operator who would have been ever able to walk again 'Patches' told me "It's time to go sir!" I knew what he meant, our time here was done, his even more so because a sniper nailed him as he carried our wounded comrade back to the helo. Sadly he too died before we landed leaving me to do all the debriefings alone.

I am on my way next month to assume a permanent staff position with UNETIDA [though appointments are currently being held up by the Special Investigation Committee], a position which would have conflicted with the types of operations TF Razor handled with exceptional valor and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. At least that's what the citations for the medals given to the 47 members' families say. As always, I'll wear my own new medals to honour their sacrifice and dream of past glory as I watch everything with more eyes then ever before.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday USMC

A special message from General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps and Sergeant Major Micheal P. Barrett, Sergeant Major of The Marine Corps to mark the 236th Birthday.

Semper Fi!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Movie Mini Reviews 8-11-11

The last several movies I've seen since Captain America haven't compelled me to write full reviews for them - they literally weren’t anything to write home about, which is a bit sad considering the performance of summer movies in recent years. I managed to avoid both Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Cowboys And Aliens in the last batch despite enjoying the previous Planet of the Apes remake with Mark Wahlberg and wanting to see if Jon Favreau could do something as impressive as Iron Man with something else. Sadly I was warned away by several sources who claimed that neither movie was in any way up to the hype that fuelled them.

Super 8

Hype however, was one thing that J.J.Abrams is able to generate if Cloverfield was anything to go by [where the hype was actually better than the movie itself], but in his sci-fi monster movie Super 8 he paid tribute to someone he obviously has the deepest respect for: Steven Spielberg. The entire movie struck me as a deeply personal homage on J.J.’s behalf to Spielberg who was obviously a great influence on his career choice and it was certainly a fitting tribute [perhaps even more than Pegg/Frost’s attempt earlier in the year with Paul]. The problem is however that I dislike most of the peacenik crap Spielberg put out earlier in his career like E.T. which I have always despised and Close Encounters, I mean seriously; giant mile-long ships come that close to the planet and we don’t fire off volleys of ICBMs at them? Nonsense!
Nonetheless Super 8 is a well paced movie that sadly has more to offer 10-14 year olds then a nostalgic trip down memory lane remembering at all those kid-friendly sci-fi movies you grew up with.

Colonel Creedon Rating: **1/2

Conan The Barbarian

The reboot of Conan The Barbarian was sadly only a middling attempt to revitalise an extraordinary character for the silver screen. Jason Game of Thrones Mamoa was cast as the titular hero and got all oiled up for a chance at movie stardom. Sadly while they got the look for Robert E. Howard’s most famous character down perfectly, the true spirit of Conan wasn’t bottled in this movie and the Millius/Schwarzenegger version written by Oliver Stone can lord that over this pale imitation. Don’t get me wrong, as an adventure tale itself, it wasn’t too shabby. The set pieces, architecture, locations and action elevated this from the mediocre direct-to-DVD bin but this was Conan! So more was expected. I will point the finger at Lionsgate because promotion for this movie in this part of the world anyway was anaemic at best.

Stephen Avatar Lang nailed the overacting required to be a truly reprehensible villain and a terribly disfigured Rose Charmed McGowan [girls, this is what happens when you try to change your appearance unnecessarily] under layers of make up makes us glad that Rodriguez never got his vision for Red Sonja off the ground. Ron [I’m in about 5 movies this year] Perlman is well suited as Conan’s aged barbarian father and his death is one of the most unique I’ve ever witnessed on screen. Rachel G.I. Joe Nichols is suitably cast as the eye candy and sets back female role-models about twenty years with her screaming damsel in distress once her pitiful fighting skills fail her. As good as they were, James Earl Jones subdued Thulsa Doom, Sandahl Bergman’s feisty Valeria and Mako’s hilarious Wizard are still worth ten times the characters in this movie.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***1/2


Columbiana starts off as an exciting thriller as the titular character as a young schoolgirl is chased through the favalas of Columbia by her parent’s killers as she races to the U.S. embassy with highly sensitive intelligence data stored on a flash drive which she has swallowed. Had the movie been just about that, I’d probably be writing a great 5-star review now. Sadly no such thing happened as the movie soon transformed into a predictable revenge thriller as the little schoolgirl grew up into a frighteningly thin Zoe Star Trek Saldana [Lucas woman, eat a ham sandwich or three will you?] who proceeded to get her well deserved retribution.
Bland performances all round from Saldana who really can't carry a movie, Michael Alias Vartan, Lenny Human Target James and Cliff Die Hard 4.0 Curtis were sadly not much better with the material here. I was expecting more from the director of The Transporter 3, Oliver Megaton. It ended up being a hideously misjudged train wreck, punctuated with some satisfying Besson-like action scenes.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The stylish if uneventful thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy may be a tad over long and light on action but its heavy on intrigue, nail biting suspense and brings seriously big acting guns to the game. Featuring extraordinary performances from Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Toby Jones and Tom Hardy. A welcome change of pace that is well worth watching especially if classic spy movies are your bag.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

Drive, Johnny English Reborn, Contagion and Machine Gun Preacher to follow