Sign in using your account with
Act of Valor: Propaganda for the US Navy in the Form of an Action Film
Don’t let the packaging fool you, Act of Valor is a recruitment video and a propaganda piece for the US Navy; not the benign slice of entertainment it makes itself out to be. For one, the film’s cast is made up of a mix of actors and real life Navy SEALs and while it makes for a cool gimmick – real life action heroes and all that – it just makes the propaganda feel that much more potent. On the whole the actors are pretty decent however they lack comfort in front of the camera. Their lines are kind of stilted, not enough to ruin the film but enough to prevent you from connecting with the characters.
The film deals heavily in clichés, the biggest of which being its choice of villains. It ingeniously lumps together America’s two biggest threats historically - Russians and Islamic ‘Jihadists’- giving us two bad guys; a Russian drug dealer name Christo (Veadov), who isn’t above murdering children; and Shabal (Cottle), his childhood friend who converted to Islam and promptly became an Al Qaida type of terrorist. And just to balance out the scales, the lead is also a complete cliché. He’s a goodhearted Caucasian, with a pregnant wife, whose idea of having a good time is hanging out on the beach surfing with his Navy SEAL buddies and their families.
The film milks his situation for all it’s worth; focusing on the fact that he’s protecting his country despite the danger involved and despite the fact that he may never see his unborn child. It’s a noble sentiment but not when it’s forced down your throat and not when it’s in such a biased context. The film is so out of touch with reality that during an interrogation scene, the US commander promises Christo that if he doesn’t cooperate, he’d be locked up but not harmed physically. His only punishment would supposedly be missing out on his wife and daughter’s lives. While we weren’t expecting the film to portray the evils of the American military system, a little nuance of the truth would’ve been nice.
On the bright side, the film has some pretty decent action scenes which make up most of the story. The film’s basic setup revolves around retrieving a kidnapped CIA agent who uncovered the link between Christo and Shabal. Once they get her back, they discover that the duo are smuggling a gang of suicide bombers into the US, wearing high tech explosive vests that can pass through metal detectors without setting off the alarm. Their mission evolves into finding and preventing the gang from entering the US and setting off a national hysteria reminiscent of 9/11. While there’s a ton of the usual gunfights and stakeouts, if the film’s portrayal of the Navy SEALs’ activities is anything to go by, skydiving is apparently an integral part of their lives and it honestly looks pretty sweet. The action sequences are full of close ups and over the shoulder shots designed to make it feel more real and, for the most part, it succeeds.
Despite the decent action sequences, it’s impossible to ignore or overlook the film’s politics. In this era of the ‘War on Terror’ you just can’t get away with things that are blatantly untrue. It’s quite unsettling; the film rewrites history and glorifies war to a completely unacceptable degree.
With seventeen novels to his name, it’s fair to say that author, Nicholas Sparks, has enjoyed a decent amount of success, especially since his very first book-to-film adaptation of the super-cheesy Message in a Bottle back in 1999. Nine of his novels have been turned into big Hollywood motion-pictures – including The Notebook and Dear John – and his latest, a disastrous and a painfully predictable attempt at a romantic drama, is the author’s tenth and quite possibly, most damaging of them all.
The story opens with Sophia (Robertson); a young woman looking forward to moving to New York City, where she plans to pursue her dreams of working at an art gallery right after she graduates. Things soon get complicated when - while attending a bull-riding competition of all things - she lays her eyes on Luke Collins (Eastwood); a handsome and a talented bull-rider who is making a return after suffering a major injury a year prior. The two are quick to connect and soon begin to spend more time with one another.
One night, they come across a devastating car accident and after managing to pull an elderly man named Ira Levinson (Alda) - and his box full of old letters – out of the wreck, the film smacks on another layer to the story. Sending us all the way back to WWII, the film shifts its focus to young Ira (Huston) and a beautiful young girl named, Ruth (Chaplin), and begins to follow their romance; a story filled with plenty of heartache and tragedy to keep hardcore Sparks fans amused.
One thing’s for sure; if you’ve seen one Nicholas Sparks movie, you’ve seen them all. Two pretty people fall in love. Their potential happily-ever-after is challenegd by a series of obstacles and hurdles which they need to find the strength to overcome. Tragedy strikes. Tears are jerked. Roll credits.
The Longest Ride is one of author’s weakest entries, it’s a little too predictable and as the tenth book-to-movie adaptation for the celebrated author, there’s nothing to separate it from the pack or make it more relevant or topical. The story jumps back and forth rather awkwardly between the past and the present and there is very little that connects the two periods together, making us think why bother with the timeline to begin with?
On the upside, the leads – although lacking quite a bit of chemistry – are likable and both Eastwood and Robertson bring enough charm and easygoingness – yes, that’s a real word – into the story. However, their pretty faces aren’t enough to save the day; unsurprising and tediously slow, The Longest Ride is a truly a long ride.
Arriving six years after the original, the follow-up installment to Kevin James’ embarrassingly unfunny and especially agonizing Paul Blart: Mall Cop is just as insufferable and unnecessary as its predecessor.
Directed by Andy Fickman – see She’s the Man – and written by Nick Bakay and Kevin James himself, the story is once again centered on the New Jersey mall security officer, Paul Blart (James) whose life after foiling the Black Friday heist six years ago, is currently down in the dumps. See, his one true love, Amy (Mays) has decided to leave him after only six days of marriage – the explanation is never really given – and his mother (Knight) passes away, leaving Paul to raise his teenage daughter, Maya (Rodriguez) all by himself.
Watching his daughter grow up is something that Paul is struggling with, and when an opportunity to travel to Las Vegas to attend a small Security Officers Convention comes up, Paul and Maya pack their bags and head to Sin City for a much-needed vacation. Unfortunately, their holiday is soon interjected by a group of professional thieves, led by super-robber, Vincent (McDonough), who have decided to use the hotel in which the Blarts are staying at as the target for their next mission. Can Paul save the day once again and be the hero he has been preparing his whole life to be?
Happy Madison Productions seems to have forever lost the concept of comedy and what constitutes a movie worthy of anyone’s time and money. The original movie - released back in 2009 – made some serious bank, grossing over one hundred-and-eight million dollars worldwide on a budget of twenty-six. So, no matter how disturbing that statement actually is, a sequel actually makes sense. Sadly, the efforts of a six-year-long production labor – which is nowhere to be found in fact - doesn’t really pay off as Mall Cop 2 is nowhere near as harmlessly entertaining as the original picture - which says a lot considering that the first movie wasn’t as amiable as we are making it out to be. It’s predominately worse. It’s worse than worse. It’s shameful and totally uncalled for.
The comedy, if you can really call it that, relies too much on James’ shape and size to elicit laughs - not to mention his immense talent of committing to pratfalls – and he is the story’s main attraction. He does well and if you’re a fan, there is some joy to be found in his latest shenanigan-filled debacle. However, if you’re not, you are probably better off giving Mall Cop 2 a serious pass.