Hello! After a long hiatus, we’re back on track. You may have found yourself watching tonnes of blockbuster movies this month, as they tear your soul (and your wallets) scene by scene, movie by movie. April/May is the official start of the blockbuster season this year, and it sure starts with a bang. With this post, I will be reviewing Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Transcendence, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Edge of Tomorrow.
(Also, please be noted that the months of the blockbusters we will be reviewing will be based on Indonesian release dates.)
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The nationalistic, gifted-with-huge-abs superhero is back in action. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is now in the present day, learning how to deal with modern life, as he unravel the conspiracy in S.H.I.E.L.D. and defeating the new, mysterious villain, that is the Winter Soldier. With a little help from his new friends, of course: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The film catches our eyes through its action sequences and plot twists, which makes it really unpredictable, for a start. Another thing that makes this a good film is that it’s not just an action-y Marvel film, it also builds up a good political thriller plot and also a wonderful answer to all the “what happens if” questions addressed in the movie. However, not a lot of comedy is used in this Marvel film, but, nevertheless, the movie remains one of the most exciting and intelligent movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rating: 4.5/5
This is the film debut of Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. It stars Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster, a dying scientist who had his consciousness uploaded to the Internet, with his wife (Rebecca Hall) always by his side, and started questioning him when things got into a darker turn. I expected this to be a mind-boggling piece, something like Nolan’s, but it’s not. It lacks scientific basis and it has a quite boring plot. Yet it has an interesting concept and some hella rad effects to make up for it, and also the interesting performance of Rebecca Hall. Rating: 3.5/5
1. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Spidey is back! Our favorite web-weaving superhero (Andrew Garfield) must face a new enemy, Electro (Jamie Foxx), and has to confront a rich Osborn kid (Dane Dehaan) who wants to live longer, and also has to keep up with his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). This star-laden sequel of the first movie has an exciting plot build-up and lots of humor. The creation of the villains were made from a good set-up, but sadly, aren’t explored more, giving time to explore Peter and Gwen’s relationship, which makes it really cheesy and reminds us to the target audience of this movie (teenagers!). Nevertheless it has damn good effects and it’s suitable for teens. But not for me. Rating: 4/5
This is the first time we can get to watch Toho’s super huge monster on IMAX screens. Godzilla is faced with two new enemies and is going to restore balanced to the world, all seen through the eyes of the Brody family (Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen). Guaranteed: you’ll be crying nerdy, manly tears watching this. The effects will make you cry manly tears; seeing Godzilla walking through the streets, restoring peace will make you cry. The effects were spectacular, the sound design’s magnificent, but sadly, the 3D isn’t worth it. Also, it lacks depth of emotion – some of the scenes from this movie could’ve been like the opening scene of 2009 Star Trek if it tried harder to engage its audience emotions. And the Gyorgy Ligeti-scored scene you saw right here in the trailer might be beautiful, but rather unfitting to the overall tone of the movie. But we have Alexandre Desplat’s music to fix it all up. Rating: 4/5
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Okay, so in a world where mutants are being hunted down, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) sent Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to the past using Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) powers to confront younger Professor X (James McAvoy) to confront Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) to make peace with the humans and not cause havoc while younger Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is still making trouble. Confused? I am, too, for a while. But this film charms us in every second with its social-political concepts, ideas of time travel and parallel plotlines (which makes it the most, if not, one of the most complex storylines in the X-Men movie universe), the enigmatic performances of the actors, the vague-ness of good and bad, and QUICKSILVER (Evan Peters). Yes, yes, he’s the mutant who stole the whole show. Rating: 4.5/5
4. Edge of Tomorrow
It’s Groundhog Day meets aliens and 113 minutes of Tom Cruise being absolutely clueless to Tom Cruise being absolutely badass. In this film, Tom Cruise is a war major stripped down to a soldier preparing to combat a race of advanced aliens, when some substance from the alien makes him repeat that certain day, on and on, until he can stop the alien race. Only Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a Special Forces soldier, knows what he’s going through. This film is intelligent for a summer blockbuster, and it has wonderful humor and they succeeded to not make the time loop concept boring. The effects were cool, the sound design was hella rad. The only thing that disappointed me was the very gritty and rough camera work. Bravo. Rating: 4.5/5
So, that’s it for the April + May blockbusters. See you in June!
To tell you the truth I thought this movie will contain less gore and more drama, at least that’s what I’m expecting when I watched the trailer. Turns out the screenplay shoved plenty of gory scenes, which was made complete by the excellent acting from Wahlberg and Co.
The entire story was based on Operation Red Wings. Now I don’t know about you but this name is completely unfamiliar to my ears before I watched the movie.
If I’m the military commander-in-charge I would consider this particular waste of lives a failure. To be exact, too much casualties is just the tip of the iceberg. You get to endanger nearby villages, waste one good Chinook, top-notch officers, and you’ll never know if your enemy turns out to be smart enough to make copies of looted M4s. Believe me, M4 terrorists are just too much to take on.
The operation, like other standard military operation, started with a recon mission which involved four personnels.
In short, three of them died. Their cover was blown by shepherds from the nearest village and you can guess the next part.
There is some falling-from-the-cliff parts that I really need to give credit. Whoever did the sound effects is genius. The ‘CRACK’s made my uncle (who was also watching beside me at that time) go “ooh, that’s gotta hurt” and “aah, ouch, euh!” Frankly, I feel no better.
After being hunted down by the Talibans for an hour or so, the captain of the unfortunate team, Lieutenant Murphy, decided to make a call for help in open space since the signal reception was very bad. He died from several shots aimed at his back, but his try was worth it.
Backup showed up several minutes later, and Luttrell (The ‘Lone Survivor’) and his other teammate Axe cheered as they heard the familiar ‘chop-chop-chop’ sound of a helicopter’s rotor. But a single rocket from the Taliban’s RPG took care of that and as well the misson’s commander-in-charge (played by Eric Bana, I’ll always remember him as Hector from Troy. He’s cool).
Axe died after being shot to death precisely at his head, but Luttrell survived after concealing himself in an opening of a hill. He was bruised, battered, and severely injured at that moment.
The next day Luttrell was found by some friendly members of the village in a water source, practically dying. Luttrell was then carried to their house and had his wounds taken care of. He was also given food and water, something he missed for possibly two days. Meanwhile, Luttrell’s host sent a handwritten note from Luttrell to the nearest U.S. military base through a messenger.
Not long after that, the suspicious Talibans checked the houses of the villagers, finding Luttrell at last. They were about to execute him when the man who rescued Luttrell took an AK-47, muttered some words at the Taliban, and cocked the gun in front of their face as he aimed it towards them. The other villagers did the same.
Luttrell, for the second time, had his sorry ass saved by the locals.
The Talibans swore revenge against the villagers while reluctantly leaving, putting on some frowns on the villagers’ faces. They are now officially in war with that particular brutal Taliban gang.
Meanwhile Lutrell has not fully recovered. He can’t do anything but rest and moan. Poor guy.
The next day the Talis (call-name for Talibans) came as promised, bringing full armaments with them; RPGs, LMGs, AK-47s, grenades, you name it. The villagers valiantly stood up with only several looted AK-47s.
When it seemed like the village is going to be destroyed utterly by the Talis, U.S. Black Hawks comes out of nowhere, practically annihilating the Talis deservedly. The gunship you get to control at Modern Warfare also put on quite a show with that sort of heavy bombardment, scattering the Talis with no sweat.
In a dramatic end, the military doctors brought back Luttrell from his certain death. Happy ending sometimes felt good, and this movie showed that.
Main Characters and Their Stories
Marcus Luttrell is a former U.S. Navy Seal and also the only survivor of Operation Red Wings. He was born in Houston, Texas, in November 7 1975. After being sent back home, Luttrell founded the Lone Survivor foundation that helped soldiers like him to get back on their feet and continue living their life by moving on.
Truthfully I can’t say if Wahlberg’s involvement in being Luttrell is exceptional or super-awesome or anything. If I’m to judge his act in this movie fairly, well, he’s just a bit more than what I call the ‘standard professional acting’. Nothing much, actually.
The real-life Marcus Luttrell had a son named after his last-second teammate, Axe. He now lives in Texas, possibly his hometown.
Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson
Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson died fighting in Operation Red Wings after having his head shot. Well, not right away, but I assume he died of blood loss before he got shot at the head by the Talibans. Axe was born on June 25 1976 in Cupertino, California. He was married to a girl named Cindy in December 2003, and thus one of his last words are:
Axe: If I die I need you to make sure that Cindy knows how much I love her.
Luttrell: She knows.
Axe: And that I died with my brothers – with a full fucking heart.
For his gallant service in the operation, Axe was awarded Navy Cross, Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Navy Good Conduct Medal.
Lt. Michael Murphy
For his remarkably great reputation, somebody actually made a movie about him. It’s called Murphy. Go on, check it out.
Michael Murphy had a great neighborhood reputation, earning the title ‘The Protector’. According to several sources, Murph (his nickname) saved a homeless man from being bullied, saved a disabled girl in his school from being bullied, and also had experience at being a pool lifeguard in summers. Murph was apparently a pretty smart dude too before he got involved in military. He graduated from Penn State university with honors and dual degrees in both political science and psychology. Talk about a perfect guy. Oh right, I forgot to tell you his birthplace and stuff. He was a native New Yorker, born May 7, 1976.
For his outstanding service this dauntless Lieutenant received lots of military awards, such as the Medal of Honor (not the game), Silver Star, Purple Heart, Commendation Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon. It was also necessary to mention that a park, a destroyer, and a missile are named after him (USS Michael Murphy, ha ha ha).
Oh, we don’t get to talk about him much now do we? In fact I think I haven’t mentioned him before this. Some of the most ‘exciting’ and good scenes were made of him, technically. Dietz was married to Maria Dietz, which was shown communicating with Dietz through an email (spoiler: asking for an Arabian Horse for her wedding present). Dietz was also seen dying grasping to a paint brochure in which he was in the process of deciding his house’s wall paint color. He loves drawing, which made him really upset when one of the Talibans shot his drawing hand, and…hmm…oh yeah, he was born on January 26, 1980 in Aurora, Colorado.
This particular war martyr earned a black belt in Taekwondo from the Korean Academy of Taekwondo (wonder why he doesn’t whup some Taliban ass with the Karate Kid kick, you know, the one with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, anyway,) so don’t mess around.
Receiving no less military rewards than his teammates, Dietz also get to be remembered through a larger-than-life bronze statue erected at his hometown.
So I’m gonna keep this one short.
Again and again I must say, war brings nothing but death. Sure, the winning side might get spoils of war and stuff, but that was nothing compared to the value of a life.
Besides that, I must say the sound effect on the scene where the four brave men jumped off a cliff is just cracking! I can’t imagine what will the movie be like without them. It was wicked. You know what? You must feel that one yourself. The video-shoot was also inch-perfect on every angle. The director must’ve been a crazy genius, you see, combining such close shooting angle and that awesome, awesome sound effect.
Overall? 4.5/5. Extra half for the appreciation of the gallant efforts of the team. Superb show!
So, the first movie review (excited!). Well, not really the first, since I used to review movies in a geek-ly kind of fashion in front of my buddies most of the times, so yeah.
The honor of being the first movie to be reviewed by a common folk goes to…(drumroll…) Letters From Iwo Jima!
Now wait a minute, you might say. The movie’s boring as much as boring could be, some might say. Even my own old man fell to a deep sleep in the early minutes while watching it with me. Probably, yes, it’s VERY boring; but to me, the movie’s a gem. It changed my naive perspective of, “wow, war is awesome!” Into something like, “so many dead people. So many futile deaths.” Which actually is the definition of war, in a nutshell. Told from the losing side of the Japanese at their brave-beyond-mention final stand at Iwo Jima, this story really is worth your time to watch (I know, I know, three hours).
As the director of this movie, Clint Eastwood changed the perspectives of common people towards the battle of Iwo Jima drastically; even myself, as I always thought that in that particular war, the Japanese are so savage and brutal. Letters From Iwo Jima is a (literally) awesome history-based war movie which is self-explanatory from its name. It is based on the infamous bloody pacific war located in the volcanic island of Iwo Jima, where 20,000 souls were lost on the defending side (the Japanese) and less than 1,000 were captured. The movie is consisted of Japanese dialogues nearly all the time, so we have that feel of a different war atmosphere, the one where the soldiers were all Japanese and has their body and soul tested beyond measure through the time of distress, not that “KILL THE AMERICANS! KILL, KILL, KILL!” kind of atmosphere of war. The performers were excellent as they were very natural in their acting and the characterization is something to admire, since telling the difference between each same-uniformed soldier can be hard to do without a good one. The movie also has an expert tension build-up through the switching of the scenes, several emphasized dialogues, and a huge portion of credit for the great natural performance (the expressions on their faces were very touching). The mental of the soldiers and the brilliant plans of the acting general were the main highlights of the movie, and almost all of the scenes in the movie were based upon it. The camera shooting was also something to be amazed at. How they managed to shoot the right landscape for the right time to have the maximum feel and effect is just spectacular. The muted color on the movie gave a touch of reality and tragedy; the two important element of the movie.
What is Iwo Jima, you ask? Iwo Jima is an island southeast of the Japanese mainland.
The U.S. army were trying to occupy Iwo Jima in order to guarantee the success of launching an attack at the Japanese mainland. Think of it as a military outpost of strategic advantages. If the island is captured, then the thought of the Japanese force surviving the barrage of attacks from the U.S. army is just impossible, since the U.S. had the liberty to replenish supplies anytime and had a safe place to retreat, if needed. The U.S. will also have a base near enough to Japan to launch their strategic bombers on them. The best part is: the Japanese force just can’t do anything about it, since they were outgunned, outnumbered; and may I say, too orthodox to take desperate measures. In WWII, Japan was an empire that values traditional values very, very high. They uphold honor more than anything. They believed that dying in a Banzai charge (hint: a suicide attack) is far more honorable than retreating, which is just wrong, since retreating and recollecting forces has more chance of victory than doing a suicide attack, where death is 99,99% certain. Sure, it may work in comic books, movies, and books, where the heroes were trapped in a desperate situation and they heroically charged. But suicide in real world is real, which is saying a lot. In short, the Japanese force values honor more than the slightest chance of victory; and that, my good common folks, is their key to defeat. Before continuing, I think I skipped an explanation about “honor” here. Samurais. Familiar to your ears? Sure! Samurai Jack, Power Rangers Samurai, The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise, etc, etc. These were fictional examples based on the Samurais (I’m not really sure Samurais come in different colors like in the Power Rangers series. Especially yellow). Historically, they were loyal royal (I know, it rhymes) warriors of the Japanese Empire, serving under lords who ultimately served under the Shogun; the second-highest rank in the Japanese Empire. The highest is the Emperor himself, of course, but the Shogun is the one that took care of everything; so that, say, the Emperor could kick back and relax. Back to Samurais. These remarkable warriors have their own sets of rules, mainly based on the Bushido: the way of the warrior, literally. It’s this guideline the Samurais were expected to follow in their life, similar to the European chivalry code, actually. An important part of this set of rule concerned the importance of honor.
“When one lost their honour or the situation made them lose it, the only way to save their dignity was by death. Seppuku (vulgarly called “harakiri“, or “belly-cutting”) was the most honourable death in that situation. The only way for a Samurai to die more honourably was to be killed in a battle by a sword.” Wikipedia
Since the U.S. troops didn’t use swords of any kind ( I don’t think combat knife counts), the Iwo Jima force was left with no choice in order to save their honor. They were to commit Seppuku, or they were to do the Banzai charge (suicide charge, in an easier term). Retreat, of course, will result in shame to them. Don’t ask me why retreat is a shame, I’m born just before the year 2000.
Main Characters and Their Stories
I think there are only two main characters, since the movie was mostly based on their viewpoint. Let’s start with a former baker who has no experience with front-line wars and guns and whatsoever, yet a smart-enough man who values life more then honor. His name is Saigo. He’s a scrawny, naive, newlywed man who had a wife and a newborn baby girl at his home.
To me, Saigo is one of the two guys in the movie that makes sense. When a soldier openly disagreed with a higher officer (at the risk of his death) in the matter of both Banzai and Seppuku, you’ll know he’s the only one around with a healthy brain.
In many of the movie scenes, Saigo was portrayed as a man with the realistic mental of a war soldier with no experience. Some may call this a cowardice, but frankly I think they will change their mind if they were put in the same distressing situation. Not only Saigo, several of his friends were portrayed in this way, too. Throughout the film, waning confidence is always depicted on these soldiers ‘from Mars’ (the term ‘these man from Mars’ is actually real, since the Japanese survivors of the brutal war looked inhumane, only weighing around 30 kilos). As I observed in many war movies, the soldiers were more frequently portrayed from their ‘heroic’ sides, not their mental vulnerability. But in this particular war movie, where we see war from the losing side’s point-of-view, the word ‘war’ is clearly defined, because that is war; full of losses, deaths, and unsure victory. How will you feel when you are in a situation where death is certain, suffering is even more certain, and yet your goal is beyond your reach? To put in in a commoner’s term, how will you feel when your chemistry teacher sets up a pop quiz in just five minutes, you have to memorize fifty pages of atomic crap in that long minutes, and yet you knew you would fail?
Other than Saigo, there is General Kuribayashi. He is a Japanese general who is apparently smart enough to hold Iwo Jima for approximately 40 days rather than a quick, brutal defeat from a futile fight at the beach. You see, Iwo Jima is an island, and if a war were to commence in an island, basically you need to set up a beach defence; trenches, mounted machine guns, artilleries, all at the beach to hold the attackers at bay. But Kuribayashi did not want to do that. He knows that the U.S. had more better armaments than him and that his troops will probably be shot at from the range, and that his troops will be sitting ducks to air raids, especially they had no aerial support whatsoever. When we are talking about american air raids; folks, we are not messing around, especially when there are no air supports to hold them off.
Although his assisting officers argued with him concerning the beach defense, Kuribayashi continued to proceed with his unusual plans. His assisting officers were definitely surprised when he said the word “tunnels” , and yet these tunnels were a wondering marvel several decades later to Japanese archaeologists, and proved to be a precious underground shelter from the U.S. army’s artillery bombardment. Before the war, Kuribayashi actually had a visit to the U.S., where he was assigned to learn the Americans’ ways (maybe in an attempt to exploit them in later days of conflicts). He was amazed at the technological advances the Americans has made, and was struck by wonder on how friendly they were. In his parting day with his community, they prepared some sort of feast to Kuribayashi as a token of gratefulness, along with a gift (a Colt handgun, I think). Kuribayashi was clearly moved by this gesture. As I was saying, Saigo was one of the two people who clearly values life more than honor, and the other people who did that is this good-guy general. Kuribayashi did not foolishly order Banzai charges around like a boss; no, he believed in preserving the lives of men to achieve victory, and that is war is all about: entirely about victory, not entirely about honor.
“I don’t know who he is, but the Japanese General running this show is one smart bastard.” Marine Corps General Holland Smith
Kuribayashi had a wife, a son, and a daughter. In the movie, flashbacks of his experience in the United States frequently began by mentally addressing his son, Taro. This shows that this guy is apparently a family guy, too.
There are several lessons that I can pick from this gem of a movie. Let’s start with the obvious: men’s life are far more valuable than anything else, including honor. It made me realize that, honor is not found in deaths, but on the other hand, honor is found in the deeds of a man’s life. The longer you live, more chances of doing good deeds you will get, and I think that’s all honor is about. Good deeds. There is also another precious lesson I get from a scene in the movie, when Baron Nishi, a Japanese Olympic athlete (and gold-medal winner in horseback riding) took in a wounded U.S. soldier and picked up a little chat. It was touching, and it hits me: I am seeing future. In the future, when globalization became a major problem yet a problem solver, people will understand each other better and conflicts will lessen. The discharged Kempeitai officer in the movie said it all: “I was taught that the Americans were savages”. With toleration, there will be less enemies and more friends; you tell me folks, do you prefer enemies or friends? As Jesus (I am not a Christian nor Satanist, if you’re wondering) said it in a very fine way: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,”. Tolerance is not an easy thing to do, but it bear great fruits that can help you in the future.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” Jesus, KJV Translation
Another highlight in this movie is perhaps teamwork. Kuribayashi is not trusted by his assisting officials, and through the movie continued to be referred as ‘behind-the-desk’ general or ‘an American sympathizer’. Because of this, many of his key assisting officers turned their backs on him and did what they think is right: to die with honor in a Banzai charge rather than retreating (as told by Kuribayashi) with shame. Kuribayashi is actually trying to save their lives, but due to the lacking trust his assisting officers had, his plan to hold Iwo Jima failed (in a courageous fashion). Teamwork is always the key to success in an organization. The final lesson I picked is perhaps the most important one, since it is the most agreeable and universal one. As I said earlier, the movie opened my eyes to the brutality of near-real-life war, emphasis on the word ‘near’. I played a lot of war games, such as Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Stronghold, Command and Conquer, etc. All in all they were fun. Heck, I even enjoy burning my own men with flamethrowers or trapping my own swordsmen with hundreds of lions. Death, in games and entertainment, is equal to fun; which is very ironic, since death must belong with tragedy and distress. This movie is actually the first movie that depicts the tragedy of war, and what this war actually stands for: empty hopes of world domination and empty glories, honors, and purposes. In one way, it is shown to me that way. But being a pretty upbeat guy, I also noticed the different purposes of these futile deaths. Sure, some dedicated their life to the Japanese Empire, or honor, or even to ego. But if there’s anything worth quoting from the movie, it’s Kuribayashi’s sole purpose in going down fighting to death: “The tunnel-digging may be futile. The stand on Iwo Jima may be futile. Maybe the whole war is futile. Would you give up then? We will defend this island until we are dead! Until the very last soldier is dead! If our children can live safely for one more day, it would be worth the one more day that we defend this island!” Which, saying in an easier term, he fought to preserve lives, not honor, not the Empire itself, not ego, but lives of men; the single thing that is valued beyond golds, silvers, diamonds. Again, in a cruel irony, men themselves saw this backwards; that golds, silvers, and diamonds are more valuable than their own lives. War, is always futile.
“The tunnel-digging may be futile. The stand on Iwo Jima may be futile. Maybe the whole war is futile. Would you give up then? We will defend this island until we are dead! Until the very last soldier is dead! If our children can live safely for one more day, it would be worth the one more day that we defend this island!” General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
To close this review, I want to quote a particular famous last words. But before that, I’d like to finish off this movie-of-the-week review by saying a huge huge thanks to you readers. I’d also like to remind you guys that this work is free to read, copy, or used IF, that’s the big if, you kindly care to give me some credit. Comments are very welcome, as long as it’s relevant with the topic. Once again, thanks a LOT!
“All officers and men of Chichi Jima – goodbye from Iwo.” General Tadamichi Kuribayachi
Rating: Personally I’ll give 4/5, but I felt a need to give extra credit for the war heroes; so instead, I gave a 4.5/5.