Tag: War


You can watch my interview with director Jalmari Helander, here

What is Sisu? Well, look it up, I am not your goddamn parent.

Most reviews of this film are likely going to give the definition of it, and I am being a trend setter by ignoring that, even though by sort of knowing the definition, and the fact that it is a Finnish concept, is kind of important for the plot of this film.

Instead, I will point out that this is director, Jalmari Helander‘s, third feature film. The first two were Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale and Big Game. The former of which I saw personally over a decade ago on a random rent from Blockbuster, and was blown away by how original the story was, with one of my favorite film endings of that year. Big Game was an interesting film as well, not as great, but had some cool action scenes and was certainly unexpected. Like, you know, having Samuel L. Jackson as the President of the United States.

Looks like a few people brought asses to an ass kicking contest. Rookie mistakes. 
World War II in Finland was a bit weird. I don’t really care to get into all of the specifics on it, because I am certainly not expert, but Finland and Germany were fighting together! Yeah! Does that mean that the Finns liked Nazis? Oh, nope. But, They were being invaded by the Soviet Union during World War II, and didn’t like that, and since the Nazi’s were also fighting the Soviet Union, they had troops up there too. That is it, they were defending their homeland.

Then, near the end of WWII, Finland signing all of the treaties, had to agree to get the Nazi’s out of their country. Which they were going to let them take their time, and run to Norway. But then it still led to a few months of fighting, called the Lapland War. Good times. So yeah, this movie is set in that time.

See, our hero, Aatami (Jorma Tommila), was just existing in the fields with his dog, panning for gold, making a big discovery. Things are looking good for him, but then a gang of Nazi’s start to give him shit, so he does what has to be done. Getting revenge on every last Nazi and driving them from his land, so he can take his newly found riches and live that life of luxury he deserves.

Yep, a simple kill the Nazis revenge flick. One man, some women, and a bunch of Krauts.

Also starring Mimosa Willamo, Jack Doolan, and Aksel Hennie.

For those who can see this image, yes, this is exactly what it looks like. 

Now for those of you who were awesome and saw the interview I posted at the top, you would already know this. But it is clear while watching it as well, that this film is inspired by First Blood. Not the plot itself, but in terms of the action, of one man, in the wilderness, against greater odd forces, after being a special tactical soldier earlier in a war. It shows its influences, and goes to extreme levels.

The director has always been a fan of doing action and big stunts in his films in the past, but this takes it to a new and much higher level. Our one man army is just…on another level of action packed strong. It is so easy to get hyped during the film, broken down into its various chapters and areas. Kill after kill going for more unique and brutal ways. Our hero being a silent but deadly type is certainly a trope, and a welcome one in this movie. It is done mostly in English, outside of a few lines that I assume are in Finnish, which is also a new decision from the director.

For video game reasons, I am biased, but my favorite scene is of course what takes place in the minefield, but the ending is also high up there.

Seeing war movies about different countries is such an interesting experience, as an American. Because sometimes it can be hard to figure out who to really root for, given how history is likely taught in various countries. But this one has the Nazis, the universal bad guys, so it is pretty easy to cheer on our hero displaying Finnish pride and determination, even if we have no ties to the Land of Fin.

Sisu is allegedly hard to define into English, but the film Sisu is easy to define. Amazing and fun.

4 out of 4.


When I got the invite first for 1917, I really just assumed I would ignore it. I try not to watch trailers, I try to avoid spoilers and go out of my way to research movies before I watch them. All I knew was that this was a war movie?

A war movie? In my 2019?! We just had Midway which was WWII (and I have not seen). I skipped one, why not skip this one as well? How can you wow me war movies?

And then a friend knocked some sense into me. He told me that this movie was done in real time. With the illusion of one continuous shout.

Hold my green apple Smirnoff ice, I’ve GOT to see this on the big screen.

Words cannot describe the fear the audience will experience.

Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) is awoken one afternoon with urgent orders that General Erinmore (Colin Firth) needs him and one other for an urgent mission, time is of the essence. He chooses his buddy Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay), and they hope it is just a supply run mission to head back and bring more food for the troops. They are quite hungry.

Unfortunately, it is a lot more urgent than that. There is another British division in the woods outside of a nearby French village. They are planning on attacking the German troops nearby at dawn, who are supposedly retreating, but the intel has changed. It is a trap. And Blake has an older brother in charge over there, another incentive to get there in time.

Now these two men have to travel through trenches, across no man’s land, hope that the German’s in their area did retreat, then travel several miles over land and hopefully get to the troops before it is too late and 1,600 men get killed.

Also starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, and Richard Madden.

Two men, one note, no cups.

Roger Deakins is god and we are just living in his well defined cinematographic world.

Breath taking. Wonderful. Immersive. It is hard to explain. If any film had to talk about the dangers and realities of World War I, this is probably the film we need. Our delivery boys are not bad ass guys who take their revolvers and head shot Nazis left and right running down a field. Every potential threat is just that, a threat, and potentially the end of their journey.

I never can tell if they will make it out of their current predicament, and if so, will they be fully in tact along the way.

The smaller roles given to big names help give some gravitas to their situation. Also, so do the explosions, and the hundreds of extras, and the miles and miles of real sets built, and the natural lighting.

An ending scene where a runner is going across the battlefield, while bombs are going off and explosions is one of my favorite and tense scenes of 2019. Along with a nighttime scene, running through the village with fire, flares, and German soldiers. It is hard to pick which scene feels more intense, honestly, and that is a good problem to have.

I loved 1917, and it is something that should be discussed for years to come on how to just do every little thing right with a movie.

4 out of 4.

Movie Roundup – Animated 2018

Welcome to a Movie Roundup! A movie roundup features a few films that I didn’t feel like making full reviews for, but needed to get basic reviews out there for completionist reasons. It also helps me deal with my backlog. It may have a theme, and today’s theme is Animated 2018! Basically, all of the animated movies of 2018 that didn’t get their own review.

Being on a movie round up doesn’t mean a movie is inherently bad, or good, or meh. I can feature any rating on here! So don’t assume the worst! I will also just post the reviews in alphabetical order.

Animated 2018

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

First up is the only third film in a franchise in the group, but there are a few unnecessary sequels as well. And in terms of unnecessary things, this is near the top. This film doesn’t relaly have any redeeming qualities. It is very clear right from the get go what a twist would be, so instead of milking it, they give it away early as well.

The real twist is tricking you to give money for this terrible, terrible movie. The ending features a several minute long dance battle, from various artists, and then an even longer Macarena dance party. Yes, that Macarena. Were they paid to have it featured so prominently, has it been too long outside of our pop culture sphere? It seriously had to milk this scene so hard, as each main character needed to be shown doing the dance, and then group shots, and then tons of tourists, and every person everywhere, with extreme body movements to highlight their awkward appearances. It was one of the worst endings of a movie this year, so well done Hotel Transylvania 3. Please stop now.

0 out of 4.


If only Van Helsing was successful hundreds of years ago, none of this would be here today.

Incredibles 2

Next up is a sequel people have actually been wanting forever, and Brad Bird said only when he had a worthy script, and apparently that meant 14 years later. Real time, not the movie time, as it takes place right after the first movie. And I honestly thought he should have waited longer. This film just feels so uninspired by me. I really didn’t need to see moments after they finished the first film, leaving me at the same exact point except we have a baby with changing every power nonsense. I could have used years later, more developed.

This plot feels too similar to the first. Still people are afraid of supers, but instead of the man going out to fight, its now the lady. The plot twist was once again obvious, so it didn’t do much for me. In 2004, Superhero movies were shit, so The Incredibles stood out as a beacon of hope for things to come. Now Superhero films have been able to elevate their game, bring a whole lot more exciting things, and this film more or less stayed the same. My mind checked out by the end, and it felt like too little too late.

2 out of 4.


Babies are hard to care for. Hialrious!

Ralph Breaks The Internet

This sequel is a lot sooner after the first film, to maximize off of its success. However, this felt like a rushed piece of movie that relied on current style jokes only to work, which is going to doom it in the long run. This movie is by Disney, who wanted to flex their expansive collection and throw in all of the princesses and more in an internet hub world to make people giddy, almost as counter to Ready Player One , another nostalgia heavy film. Except this one combines nostolgia with extremely current, so we get memes, we get current popular websites, and it is going to do what many modern comedies do: fade into obscurity in a few years.

It is still nice to look at, and the ending is totally weird, but honestly, they made Ralph into such a shit in this movie. In the first film, he was tired of being a bad guy, who tried to do the right thing, but from his good intentions some bad still happened. In this film, he becomes selfish and straight up almost gaslighting Penelope into staying, and going out of his way to be a dick, whcih causes the problems. He felt like an extreme nice guy. “I did all of this for you, and now you want to leave!? Love me!” These are not the traits to be highlighting in our animated heroes, even if he learns his lesson. He still needed to not be such a dick.

2 out of 4.


Ha ha ha ha screaming goats ha ha manipulation ha ha ha free will.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

This movie is an awkward one, as it had a small release, not a big studio, and looked like absolute shit. Letting us know it is based on a true dog from World War I doesn’t make this feel any less uncomfortable the whole time. In highlighting what a dog did, with most likely extreme examples that might not have happened, we downplay the hell out of actual soldiers in the war who died. I don’t know if anyone is still alive from that war, but I know they would definitely not like this movie iteration.

It was a terrible war, and not saying we can’t make kid versions about the war. But it didn’t do a good job of really informing the details of the war, so it isn’t really educational. Instead, it is a super pup movie, who has a soldier friend, who saves everybody. It is so soft and basic it just feels like a waste of time. Cool, at least one dog in a war was given the title of sergeant. Please don’t trivialize the war at the same time.

1 out of 4.


Yo dawg, just no.

Sherlock Gnomes

For those of you who did not see Gnomeo and Juliet (which I will assume is everybody), it was lawn gnomes, but the Romeo and Juliet story line. And for whatever reason, they got Elton John on board with it, and a lot of his hits were either background, or the tune of his songs with different lyrics. It was uncomfortable. So yeah, let’s do a sequel. But a different story. Completely unrelated, except also being British in nature.

Now, if you are like me, you assumed okay, new story, new hero and will just be gnomes. But no, they think we really like the pair from the previous movie and it is still really about them, with also a mystery and extra characters. And despite the first being a big movie about their romance and getting together, this one is also about how Gnomeo is a shitbag who won’t let his woman do her own things, so he has to be insecure and they should not be a couple. More bad things for kids, really. Also, what the fuck is this Shelock plot line. I haven’t seen Homes & Watson yet, but this has got to be the worst year for that poor detective in hundreds of years. Straight up I will let you know, at some point, Watson is found to be part of the bad guy plot as well, because they want something new. Get out of here.

Oh yeah, and still, Elton John music.

0 out of 4.


Here are four characters no one ever has, or will, care about.


This is one of those movies I had completely dismissed before watching it. It looked like an Illumination movie, and they are generally godawful always. But it isn’t that! It is Warner Bros, who is known for Lego Movies and Storks (and that’s it right now). Knowing Storks, I wasn’t excited either. But strangely enough, Smallfoot had a lot going on for it. It had pretty good lead acting and some fun characters. It dealt with a serious topic about dealing with religious doctrination, from many angles. It didn’t say blindly follow, or screw all of it and get rid of it. There were layers to the plot.

I didn’t know it had songs in it either, so when they started I was a bit turned off, but for the most part they are really great. Even when one had to take the riff from Under Pressure, it completely ran with the premise and made it into something wonderful. Shit, the music was dope. I laughed. Now the ending did have a lot of problems, it got clunky and a bit off. But for the most part, Smallfoot is a solid film and better than most of the animated films this year. I’m looking at you, Disney and Pixar.

3 out of 4.


Who really has the small feet in this situation, WB, Disney, or Pixar?

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

And finally, we have a movie that came in a summer and I actually heard a lot of good things about. I heard it was hilarious. I heard I didn’t need to watch the show to like. I watched the first Teen Titans a few times, and it seemed quality. The Go version looked like, and maybe even smelled like trash. And it turns out, their movie seems to go with my preconceptions of the show.

Let’s make this clear. I didn’t laugh once. It had a few fart and potty jokes in it. It had a group of five people but it could not at all let them all be the stars, despite it being a team film. Clearly, a movie about Robin wanting a movie about himself will be more about him. Fine. But the other four are barely used. Cyborg is used a lot more, then Beast Boy, and our girls are rarely mentioned or get a line it seems. It is also a surprise musical, with some tunes being nice.

But what makes this movie insufferable is its over reliance on meta humor and current meme standards. We get it. Its a movie about making a super hero movies. We got superheroes in it, and they are hilarious. It just went all these terrible directions and never felt like something I would ever want to watch. It is like an idea someone made on an internet message board, and for whatever reason, a studio executive was drunk and actually listened to it. Yeah, a movie about making movies. But fart humor. And not showcasing all of the members of the team. And repeated jokes. Yes. God awful.

0 out of 4.


God awful.

Overall, I am not surprised that three of these films got the lowest rating. I am surprised at how much I disliked Teen Titans though, could never imagine that poor of a film. I figured Sgt. Stubb would have been worse. I am surprised at the mediocrity from our big studios and how good Smallfoot ended up being.

Some of these films will make the worst of the year list, none will make the best. If you wanted quality animated films from this year, from America, check out Isle of Dogs and Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse.


The hype surrounding Dunkirk has lasted a little bit over a year. A historical war movie from Christopher Nolan? A war film on IMAX or 70mm screens!

Bombs and sadness!

Because the real life Dunkirk really fucking sucked. A whole lot of Allied soldiers in World War II were surrounded. It was one of the major setbacks of the war and could have lost the entire war if things didn’t slightly work out.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about some war things.

Tightly packed, little soldiers, just trying to get home.

War. War never changes. Except for World War 1. That changed a whole lot of things. The number of soldiers to die in this war was far higher than any war before it. They had less swords and horses, instead focusing on technology could kill. And it in World War II, that technology could now fly, dive under water, bomb, and more.

And in the city of Dunkirk, France, the allies were completely fucked. The French and British forces were surrounded on all land sides by the Germans. The sides without Germans had water. Sure, on the other side of that water was Great Britain, but it was far away.

The soldiers could only bunker down and hope they could get rescued, because every day the enemy came closer and took out more of their supplies. But even the water wasn’t safe. The Germans had U-Boats, and of course planes dropping bombs. Soldiers just wanted to get home. If the armies were wiped out, the Allies would have lost the war and there would not have been a second chance to come back and take over.

So how are they going to rescue so many soldiers? And how many aren’t going to make it? Well, either way, people are not getting out of there happy.

Featuring three main plot lines, and a lot of dudes mostly. Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Cillian Murphy, Damien Bonnard, Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Jack Lowden, James D’Arcy, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Will Attenborough, and Kenneth Branagh.

French? British? Doesn’t matter. Basically everyone there was whiter than the sand though.

Dunkirk has potentially been one of the more hyped films of 2017. More than the superhero movies, more than whatever Leo DiCaprio might find himself in, more than the return of the NFL (probably not true). It is a summer blockbuster, that is Nolan directed, and probably headed straight for several Oscar nominations despite not waiting until the end of the year.

And yet, here we are, I am giving it a 2 out of 4.

First of all, I will openly acknowledge it is technically a wonderful work of art. The camera use, the cinematography, the explosions and a bit of the thrill.

But the biggest issues I heard about it ahead of time that I blew off came full force and hit me hard. The story just was weak. It relied entirely on tense sequences and not knowing how the different plot liens interacted to build the entire story. It was a good idea for a story, but the big story elements were mostly missing.

It took me weeks to write this review, partly because of how daunting writing the plot summary portion would be. For example (and probably realistically so), we barely hear character names. I remember only one or two after the film, everyone else is just a soldier or citizen doing their best. The rescue is the story, but the rescue is only so strong.

The other reason it took me awhile is because it just took so long to figure out my feelings behind it. I went in expecting a 4 out of 4, figured it would be a 3 out of 4, but then realized that to me it ends up being just a bit more mediocre in the long run. I am shocked, I am confused, and I really just wanted something much, much more.

2 out of 4.

War Machine

I know that War Machine has been a term for a long time. I mean, Black Sabbath sang the song War Pigs which uses that term, so it had to exist probably at least since the 1960’s as a sort of protest term maybe during Vietnam? Normally, I might look that up, but I am just spitballing here.

Clearly the Netflix original film War Machine is referring to it in this way, about modern conflicts and maybe war profiteers.

But as you all are aware, there is War Machine of the Iron Man/Marvel movies, and he is probably big enough to have taken over that title. Maybe they picked the title to just piggy back off of that Marvel money. That Disney money.

Like war profiteers.

The face you make when you have been a heartthrob for decades and now have to play a role with gray hair.

General Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) is a leader in the United States Armed Forces, and has dedicated his life to his career. He was born on an army base, coming from several soldiers. He graduated from West Point, like all eventual war leaders, and so on. He likes to get shit done, he has his close crew of soldiers he can trust, and he doesn’t appreciate things getting in his way.

This is set a few years ago, with Obama still as president, and he wants to end the war in Afghanistan. They are now dealing with insurgents, making it an impossible to win fight, but damn it, he was put in charge and he will put it to a close. He has to make assessments and come up with a plan of attack, everyone in the government is hoping for the best. But McMahon doesn’t do what is heavily suggested, he is going to do what he knows is right to defeat the bad guys and save our troops.

However, as command of the troops, he is finding a lot more of the job involves not warring, but instead dealing with incompetent or annoying world leaders, including his own. The politics of war is unnerving and getting to him, preventing him from doing his job. It seems like he is put into that place entirely to be targeted by newspapers, the media, other countries, protesters, blaming him for a war he didn’t start and is just trying to finish.

And as it is a war movie, there are a shit ton of people involved, so here a lot of of the more important ones. Alan Ruck, Anthony Hayes, Anthony Michael Hall, Aymen Hamdouchi, Ben Kingsley, Daniel Betts, Emory Cohen, John Magaro, Josh Stewart, Meg Tilly, RJ Cyler, Scoot McNairy, Tilda Swinton, Topher Grace, and Russell Crowe.

Photo ops allow people to dress up fancy, show their medals, wear cool hats, and apparently drink tea.

Satire films are hard to pull off, especially if you want to avoid the now ugly valley called parody. War Machine does a decent job of maintaining its satire status without dipping down to any sort of parody territory. What it doesn’t do a good job of is being an amazing satire film.

For satire to work, everyone has to be able to get it, understand the real world events and how the art is flipping it on its head. It would be hard for someone to not know about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the film does go into a level of detail that would require more than the layman’s knowledge. Not a whole lot, just some, so that could be considered a negative to a lot of viewers.

I loved Pitt in our leading role here. He gave such an honest performance and was fully in that character. It never felt like the character was intentionally trying to be the butt of a joke, always very serious in ways that became amusing just to an outsider perspective. It just had a lot of truth to it, a wonderful thing for Pitt to have accomplished in this movie.

I wouldn’t say this is a perfect or extraordinary film. It was a decent watch, one I won’t probably ever go running for again. I will also like to point out how amazing Swinton was in this film. She had only one scene and her character is named German Politician, so someone you would assume is just a dumb cameo, but she killed it and added a lot of gravity to the general’s situation.

3 out of 4.

Sand Castle

This same week I had a review of Win It All, and noted my disappointment that Netflix had dropped their ball on their original films finally. And no, I have not seen Sandy Wexler yet. But we all know that it doesn’t count against them.

Needless to say, I was still excited about Sand Castle, much like how I am excited about War Machine. By all means Netflix, start producing war movies, a new genre for you unless you count Beasts of No Nation.

At this point this review is just name dropping films. I better get to the point before I get sued or accidentally make money on advertisements.

“You know what would make this war better? Some ice cold Mountain Dew.”

This Afghanistan war is going to be from the point of view of Matt Ocre (Nicholas Hoult). He is a smart guy, but he enlisted only because his dad and grandfather did before him. He would certainly rather not shoot people, and he tried to get sent home by having a hand injury that he he used on himself.

But alas, it does not work, it heals “enough” and he is sent out with his unit. Staff Sergeant Harper (Logan Marshall-Green) is their leader, with other recruits like Sergeant Dylan Chutsky (Glen Powell), Sergeant Burton (Beau Knapp), Coporal Enzo (Neil Brown Jr.), and 1st LT Anthony (Sam Spruell).

After a hard and successful shooting mission, their small crew is asked to help with a nearby village. Their water supply was cut off, thanks to an accidental attack from the Americans. So they need water and need it bad. They are tasked with daily driving a giant tank (I mean like the kind that holds water) to a site 3 hours away to fill up, and back, while also helping to oversee the engineers fix the problem for the city.

You know, with people trying to kill them and steal water and things like that. Weeee!

Also starring Sammy Sheik, Tommy Flanagan, and Henry Cavill.

“This smoke is annoying, but later I am going to hit the shower, wash off the blood, and bathe in Dew. Mountain Dew, the fresh blood remover.”

My favorite war films are the ones that have higher amounts of drama elements versus action elements. Most war films in a real setting try to give us some sort of realism, so films that deal with the the heavy emotional toll, the human sacrifices, the citizens who get swept up in it all, the politics, those are my favorite. I could care less about all the bang bang shoot em ups.

And given that this film is mostly about a special operation mission, it has a lot of the above elements, filling me with moderate amounts of joy. Hoult being our main lead in a war film is pretty new territory for him. Sure, for whatever reason he keeps getting put into action films, usually with fantasy elements, but he isn’t a big buff dude war hero. (Oh man! Maybe that explains why he smart instead in this film! Shock!) But he does a good job of balancing war emotions with not wanting to get shot or kill innocent people.

The other members of their crew feel like a real tight knit community. I am always impressed with the bond the soldiers seem to have in a lot of these films, like the soldiers in Fury as a recent example.

My biggest issues come from the end, where thanks to PLOT, our group does have to go on a big action war effort. And it is at night, there are explosions, dead bodies, and lots of guns. Very typical war fare, but a scene that just bored me to tears after the excellent drama and skirmishes I had before. Dark scenes don’t make things feel tense for me, instead they just make me annoyed at what I cannot see and force my brain to fill in the blanks.

Overall a pretty decent effort, good acting from the main actors involved, and a decent story to go with the war.

3 out of 4.

Free State of Jones

I love period piece films as long as that period isn’t Victorian-era England. Those ones aren’t necessary bad, they just feel overdone to me and now I have developed a slight bias against them. Sorry, not sorry.

Civil War era films usually get me all excited though. Or just pre-Civil War slavery films. I don’t even need them to be based on real events, which is the recent trend. Just give me a movie with brothers killing brothers and morals on the line. I wanna tear up at the hardships of war and get mad at something that happened 150+ years ago.

So the Free State of Jones is based on real events? Cool, whatever. I accidentally saw a trailer a few months ago before another screening and it looked pretty interesting. I know it was originally supposed to come out in March but got pushed back to Summer for reasons. Doesn’t matter, still excited to watch it.

“Oh, sup prof. Just chillin'”

In October, 1862, Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), up for the sweetest name award, was also serving in the Confederate Army. For whatever reason he was given nurse duty, so he used that status to save his friends from the battlefield and getting them to doctors quickly. Then his son, Daniel (Jacob Lofland) appears, saying that their farm animals were taken and crops to feed the army. Newt agrees to escape with his son and take him home, but tragedy occurs and Newt is forced to just bring home a body.

Newton came from a small farm in Jones Count, Mississippi. He has been poor and kind of pissed off at the rich. Pissed that their sons don’t have to fight in the war, when he feels the entire war is them fighting for slaves that only the rich have. So he decides to stay home with his wife (Keri Russell) and young boy. He becomes a protector of all the homes in the area from Confederate troops looking to take more than the 10% allowed.

They quickly turn on him and he has to go into hiding in the swamp. There he joins a camp with Moses (Mahershala Ali) and four other runaway slaves. They hide together, work together, and eventually get guns to protect themselves. Overtime, more and more Confederate deserters are on the run and end up at this camp until they have over 100 members. Newt has developed a relation with a House slave Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who has been secretly helping their group.

Anyways, short story long, they eventually set out to take their land back from the Confederate soldiers that are trying to take their crops and resources. They get three counties to their name before resistance starts and decide to start their own Nation, a Free State of Jones, to like, grow their own crops and have equality and all. Fun times.

Donald Watkins and Troy Hogan play two other slaves, Bill Tangradi and Thomas Francis Murphy play our confederate leaders trying to stop this group, and a whole lot of other white people, played by Sean Bridgers, Joe Chrest, Brian Lee Franklin, Kerry Cahill, and Christopher Berry.

The way to prevent your stuff from getting stolen is to burn it all down.

Never before in a movie have I seen a drop in quality so much as Free State of Jones. At the beginning we are dropped right in the middle of a random Civil War fight. It showed that the Civil War was brutal, people died and marched on and died some more. Newt escapes, quite easily apparently and continues to be mad at the rich for not fighting their own fights and his friends losing their livliehoods over it. Sure, makes sense. Newt doesn’t care about Slave rights or anything, he has none. It isn’t until a Slave helps save his sick son.

But even then, it is extremely awkward in this movie, even when he is living with just runaways. They never get close. When it is a giant army of Confederates and the few slaves, people are still dicks to slaves. It isn’t until one of the more cringey movie moments that I have ever seen that things start to change. When Newt’s character gives a speech about how basically everyone there is someone’s slave, no matter the color and they shouldn’t be jerks. He used a bit more “colorful” language, but that speech helped change everyone’s mind, albeit temporarily, to work together towards a goal.

In terms of modern comparisons, it reminded me of the All Lives Matter backlash to Black Lives Matter. This movie argues that the poor southern farmers were treated just as bad as slaves, but then goes on to show that technically the slaves still have it worse. I don’t know if the Moses character is real at all, but they put all of the slavery baggage on him, as the other members of the camp apparently don’t have lines and I barely heard two of their names mentioned. It was such a shit way of trying to get us emotionally invested in the slavery story, when they only put personality in him and Rachel. We also find out he has a wife and kid somewhere in “Texas” (again, we are in Mississippi), yet they are able to reconnect extremely easy post war with zero explanation as to how.

This kid is killed off in the first 10 minutes and gets more promo pictures than other people in teh film.

There are more problems with this movie outside of making it super white focused. I can’t remember when, but early on in the movie, we get a title card that says 85 YEARS LATER… and we are shown a court room setting where the whiteness of a person is being put on trial, because his great grandmother might have been Rachel, making him part black, and thus his marriage illegal. This was a real trial and actually true, but HOLY CRAP, this has no reason to be in this movie at all.

The “future” scenes do nothing for the rest of the film and they keep coming back, breaking up the plot and slowing it even more down. Whoever decided to add this constantly interrupting subplot/finale to the film should be fired from whatever future film jobs they have, because it was such a poor choice.

The Confederate “bad guys” and post War bad dude are basically cartoon villains, just missing some finger twirling of their mustaches. The film is especially insulting over the “peanut scenes” in the last twenty minutes.

Oh, and guess what. The film doesn’t end with the end of their rebellion or the end of the civil war. It goes over another year or so after the fact, during early KKK period and reconstruction. Why? Because they feel like it. Because the ending drags on and on, for over thirty minutes. The filmmakers had no idea how to end this film and practically none of it matter for the overall story they were trying to tell.

Fuck, Free State of Jones. I can’t believe it ended up being so blah. There were good moments in there and with 45 or so less minutes, plus more character development for some other characters, and this would have been fantastic. This film makes me less excited for The Birth of a Nation, which is stupid, I know.

I’m not angry at your Free State of Jones. I’m just really disappointed.

1 out of 4.


Oh sorry, here is an extra picture. It is really hard to find any of Moses or Rachel, let alone any of the other black characters in the film. This is basically the best I can do (without huge watermarks), even by googling the movie title with actor names. Shit, if you google the movie and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the main love interest, you will find barely anything from the actual film and some pictures of her from Belle.

The director was Gary Ross, an old white guy who has only directed a handful of films. His first one was Pleasantville, which I love and adore, but I guess it makes sense. In that movie, he told the problem of Racism in America using only white people. In Free State of Jones, he basically just does that again, but in a more insulting way.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Benghazi. What a political buzz word. A city that no one had any idea even existed before the events in 2012, but it became quite a big deal.

And I couldn’t care less. I am mostly annoyed that it has become such a buzz word without a lot of meaning behind it that shitty internet and news people are referring to controversies as “word”-ghazi, depending on the situation. It is just as ludicrous as adding gate to the end of it, if not more so. And both things need to stop.

Yes, these indeed are my thoughts going into the movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. I don’t know shit about it, outside of the fact that controversy exists. I know it is supposed to be a real story, but Michael Bay is directing it so who knows. I know that this movie is based on a book written by someone who was there, so who knows the actual accuracy of the book.

After all, who cares about truth when the outcome is income.

I expect a plethora of pew pew pews on both sides.

Apparently, Benghazi, Libya was named one of the most dangerous places in the world. Despite that, the US still kept a “diplomatic compound” in the city and nearby is a “secret” CIA compound staffed by private military contractors. And the movie begins with Jack Silva (John Krasinski) flying in to join their team. “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale) an old friend picks them up, tells him to not mess with the locals and you know, helps fill in the new guy so that we can as an audience can learn things.

Despite tension, the US Ambassador to Libya (Matt Letscher) is still there, with a small rental cop security team. He gets worried when he sees people taking pictures of the compound. And worried he should be! Because on September 11, yes that day, some people attack the compound.

Now, our private military CIA people are the only friendlies in the area and they go against orders to try and save the ambassador. They have no support incoming and they are basically going to war with a tiny army, but it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do, right?

Also starring David Giuntoli, Max Martini, Pablo Schreiber, Dominic Fumusa, David Denman, David Costabile, and Alexia Barlier.

Shit, there are explosions too. Instead of pews, we get boom boom booms.

I know what I am about to say is terrible criticism for a film and I know it is a word I should try to avoid while writing a review, but after pounding my head, I have no idea how to talk about the movie with any other vernacular. 13 Hours was boring. It dragged. It is almost two and a half hours long and it felt like four. It took a whole hour before the assault on any compound began, which is a shit ton of time to spend to try and make us care for the characters (which doesn’t work).

Sometimes when your goal is ultra realistic combat situations (which this is arguable, clearly many liberties would have been taken), it no longer entertaining. I hated Act of Valor, because they wanted realism at the expense of acting and story and it showed. In this case, Bay wanted to drive home an opinion, honor some people, and explode some shit.

I think forcing someone to watch this movie twice in a row would actually be considered torture and so technically it fits the theme of area the movie is set in. Go figure.

It wasn’t completely terrible, it was just boring. It failed to ever grasp my attention and felt like it would never end. Thankfully, this is the final major movie from January of 2016 that I had to watch. Hooray, I caught up only six months into the year! Too bad the months after it also were filled with bad films.

Bay, stick to Robots and Turtles. At least they are occasionally interesting.

1 out of 4.

Beasts Of No Nation

Oh no, they’ve gone and done it. Netflix has bought the movie, Beasts of No Nation, from the film festivals and decided to release it. Fuck the big studios. They want to get in on that game too. They paid 12 million to distribute the film, and since it is Netflix, most of you can see it. Hell, if you prefer films in theaters, you can go see it on the big screen instead. It has a limited release, because none of the big chains would show it. They demand at least 90 days before the film gets released online, or they won’t show it. Because theaters are dying and all that jazz.

But yeah! They wanted a good film to try and win awards to help legitimize their business. Making their own TV shows is cool and all, but releasing their own movies is another. Note, they did not make this film. They just paid to distribute it. The next film that Netflix will release at the same time as theaters is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend. So regardless of quality, BoNN is in some good company. Hopefully. I guess The Green Legend can also suck.

Needless to say, this film probably won’t win any Oscars. Those are run by the Academy, and so many of them are stuck in their ways, they are probably firmly against things like Netflix trying to join their game and hurt the money studios can make in theater ticket sales. Since ticket sales are the end all be all in movies making money, outside of the few that can go cult status and coast on DVD/Blu-Ray sales for decades.

There is a joke there, implying DVDs or Blu-Rays will still be a thing decades from now.

Maybe they will be things in other parts of the world. But I doubt they make much in the African DVD Sales Department.

Agu (Abraham Attah) is just your typical boy living in a typical civil war torn African country. This one is unnamed, because it is a fictional story, but hey, you can probably imagine it all. He likes to sing and dance with his friends. He hangs out on the streets, because the schools were closed due to wars. Oh well, at least the local police force from Nigeria is keeping things calm in their village.

You know, until it doesn’t. Next thing they know, danger is everywhere, and it is hard for them to get their loved ones to safety. Try as he might, Agu’s dad is only able to get his wife to safety as he is unable to find a car for his boys. And sure enough, when the “government army” comes rolling in, they assume the villagers are actually working with the rebels and get shot. But Agu was told one thing. To run into the bush and to survive.

And that is when Agu meets the Commandant (Idris Elba). Turns out he has his own army as part of the rebel force. He is always recruiting too, especially if they are younger. In fact, there are quite a large number of children in this army, so it is easier for Agu to really get involved when the officer directly above him is only a year older than him. And hey, if they are staying in line and being obedient, he should too. They have food, shelter, camaraderie. AND YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE? The government killed his family, damn it. Why shouldn’t he join the rebels? Where he is loved and can continue to be loved if he just, you knows, shoots the innocent villager or two.

Other main-ish child soldiers are played by Annointed Wesseh, Kurt Egyiawan, and Emmanuel Nii Adorn Quaye.

Look at me
Look at me. Look at me. I am your daddy now.

Running at around 147 minutes, Beasts of No Nation is basically your typical war film. Those are always long fuckers.

However everything else about it is pretty different from your standard war drama. Usually in those films when they talk about people just being kids, it is due to the dead bodies of a village they find, or an eighteen year old recruit heading overseas to kill the bad guys. BoNN dealing with actual child soldiers reflecting an actual reality of some African countries adds a constant level of fright into the whole equation.

At the same time, because of this being in the news (hah, not TV news of course. But internet news and stuff) so much and for so long, it also feels like a lot of the surprise is and shock factor is already gone. Do you remember Kony 2012? I fucking do. I got caught up in the hype and ordered one of those paint the town red packages. A week later I realized that it was a terrible program and was able to fight tooth and nail to cancel it and get my money back. But still. That was a super big thing for like, a whole month almost.

I wish now more than anything that it could have never happened. Because once people realize that yes, it is shitty there, but three dudes form San Fransisco are not the best holders of our money to do it, people kind of got fed up with the child soldier thing and then promptly ignored the real problems that are still occuring. If that had never happened and then BoNN came out, it could lead to a lot better and positive PR in order to help stop the civil wars over there. Then again, blah blah, USA needs to stop interfering with countries trying to do their own thing because we cannot police the world.

What I am getting at is the situation is hard in real life for the rest of the world, and it is much harder for those living in those areas, which the movie does an incredible job of showcasing.

Attah and Elba do a good job at the helm of the film, and their relationship is convincing and a bit scary. Elba is such a smooth talker that I almost wanted to shoot some fictional villagers for him. But make no mistake, despite the bigger headline, this is Attah’s film and story and it is a great one. Due to the subject matter, it was a lot harder for me to find myself completely emotionally invested in the situation, and from some sudden changes in the plot’s direction, I did find it harder to understand just what was happening in the story. But on future re-watches* I’d probably be able to relate and understand it all a lot better.

* – Hah. I won’t rewatch this. War stories take too much out of me and time. Still haven’t seen Saving Private Ryan since I was like 10.

3 out of 4.

Bridge of Spies

Lies have got to be very sturdy. Lies can make a foundation for buildings and relationships, so lies have a lot of use. The more you lie, the more weight it can hold, I guess.

After all, you can have a throne of lies. So they must be able to support your weight and be at least a little bit comfortable.

I just don’t know if I’d trust a bridge of lies. Bridges usually have to hold dozens of cars at once, including the things that cars hold. Those bitches need to be super sturdy.

I’d want more than lies. I’d want some cement too. And I dunno, a couple engineering and psychology students to supervise the mixing of cement and lies. And if that isn’t enough, the actual physical embodiment of lies, to make it mostly a Bridge of Spies. Then it becomes something I’d stand on to hang out and shit.

I wasn’t even considering weather. Snow can add a lot of weight to it all.

In the 1950’s, everyone was afraid there would be a Nuclear Holocaust across the globe thanks to the cold war. Hell, people (including me) still are hugely afraid of this occurring. But back then it was new and caused kids to cry and shit. The information age was rampant, so there were spies everywhere. We sent guys over there, they sent Keri Russell over to us.

They also allegedly sent to us Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). He did some USSR spy stuff. He was also found by the US Government, so everyone in America collectively wanted him dead for being a traitor. But to prove we are better than them, we have to put him on trial with a real lawyer. They settle on James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer who did some criminal stuff in the past. Thankfully, Donovan is a good man and he does the fuck out of his job to defend his client, even if all of America hates him for doing his patriotic duty.

Since this is a true story, allow me to go further. As Donovan is the only man that Abel is willing to trust after awhile, Donovan starts getting used as a pawn by the USA government. He is brought in to try and trade Abel for a captured US Soldier, Francis Powers (Austin Stowell). He has to go to East Germany right as the wall is being built, while the East Germans have captured a US college student, Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers). That is two FPs. I smell a conspiracy. And Donovan wants to get both of them back, and not leave one to torture or worse.

Man, what’s a scumbag insurance lawyer going to do? How bout be a hero! FOR AMERICA! And one Russian spy.

Amy Ryan plays his wife, Alan Alda his boss, and Sebastian Koch / Mikhail Gorevoy are his main negotiating partners. I was going to mention the main US Agent in East Germany too, but I can’t find him on the list at all. Generic white dude.

Lawyer up
That perma-frown face, if turned upside down, somehow stays a frown.

Steven Spielberg is the main reason I wanted to see this film. He hadn’t directed a film in about three years, and damn it, I wanted more. Lincoln could only hold me off for two of those years. He is a magical little man that can make phenomenal movies.

With Bridge of Spies, he tried a little bit hard and didn’t come across as honest as some of his past films. Maybe done intentionally, given the subject matter. The filter to make the film look like it was “set in the past” generally bugs me, and this time was no different. Despite the color scheme, the film was beautifully shot. I especially enjoyed the rain scene.

The acting from the big names was acceptable, but Rylance stole the show. Quite a few realistic jokes and an unflinching sense of awareness that nothing he could do could change his situation. Nothing ethical, a least from his point of view. Hanks was pretty good too, but the last third of the film just featured him playing sick with coughing during negotiations. The character itself was annoying at that point, somehow making it seem like he both didn’t care about the exchange and cared more than anyone else.

My overall complaint with the film is that it just felt far too long. The true story subject is quite a long one, but it seemingly skimmed over areas I thought would be more prevalent (court scenes), and spent far too much time on other plot points(the US Pilot training to be a spy, in particular). Thankfully they didn’t also spend a lot of time trying to humanize the college student. The one scene before he gets arrested felt like it was too much already.

A decent movie, but one that only excels in smaller doses and doesn’t feel as grandiose as the subject matter deserves.

2 out of 4.