Navy SEALs

Eric Bana in Lone Survivor

Though there weren’t many people out there who appreciated Peter Berg’s recent board game cash-in, Battleship, he was generally a well-regarded director before he laid that one on us, so there should still be interest out there for what he’s doing next. Especially since he’s already assembled a fairly impressive cast for it. The film is called Lone Survivor, and it tells the true story of a Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan gone bad, as adapted from the biography of soldier Marcus Luttrell. While on a reconnaissance mission along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Luttrell and three of his fellow SEALs made a fatal error. After showing a bit of compassion and letting an old man and three boys who came upon them walk away, they soon became victims of a Taliban ambush, which took the lives of every member of the team other than Luttrell, the titular lone survivor.

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Kevin Carr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr fights a battle of wits between the stuffy and overly dramatic Oscar contenders that will be buzzing through the weekend and the genre-specific schlock that is being released with no hope of winning any sort of award at all. Before hunkering down on the couch to watch Billy Crystal time warp back into the mid-90s on Sunday, Kevin skydives into the multiplex to check out Act of Valor. Then he joins a commune to be a modern hippie while watching Wanderlust. Finally, he leaves the multiplex to stalk Amanda Seyfried and her on-screen sister because he believes he’s at least as creepy as the legions of creepy guys in Gone. Oh, and that Tyler Perry movie? He skips that with a wave of the hand and a snap of the fingers. If it ain’t got Madea in it, it ain’t worth watching!

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If you’ve been paying attention to Act of Valor’s aggressive marketing campaign, you’re aware that it’s a fictional film starring real-life active-duty Navy SEALs that aims for as much realism as possible in its depiction of their tactics and missions. That’s a fascinating concept and it’s been seamlessly executed by filmmakers Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh. Initially conceived as a training film, the picture gradually evolved into the hybrid that it is once the co-directors sold the SEALs on the project, proposing to “take Top Gun, pull Maverick out and put in the real Maverick,” as Waugh told the Los Angeles Times. But at the end of the day, this is a long-winded SEALs recruitment tool, a noble gesture that’s just not sufficient basis for a feature film. The usual cynicism with which one would greet a feature-length ad doesn’t apply because, obviously, if there’s any group that deserves this sort of heroic treatment, the SEALs are it. The worldview on display here is aggressively simplistic, of course, but the essential, elemental purpose behind the picture is a noble one — paying tribute to these soldiers who put themselves in extreme harm’s way for the rest of us.

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The upcoming Relativity Media release Act of Valor looks like it could be a pretty balls-out fun time in terms of action film, but I’m sure everyone has some hesitation about one of the film’s biggest selling points: it uses active duty Navy SEALs as the cast. While that sounds badass because it is, it also sounds like a risky gamble since these guys are warriors and not necessarily actors. That fear may be allayed however, the more we get to see of the film, which looks like it’s going to be a non-stop ass kicking ride of guys killing people and blowing stuff up. When there isn’t much call for acting, only action, can you do any better than hiring real soldiers? Showing just how vital the use of actual SEALs is to the product, we were sent this featurette which illustrates something very few movies are willing to partake in: the use of live ammunition. On almost any other set, this would be an insurance and logistics nightmare, but when you’re dealing with real Navy SEALs who train with live ammunition and actually blow things up for real, rather than using flashy smoke bombs, all you have to do is point the camera in the right spot and remember to put your flak jacket on. Check out the footage and see for yourself how awesome practical bullets look on screen.

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The last time the country was (for the most part) united was when an idiot called a movie theater to complain about being kicked out for being an idiot. The time before that, it’s because we killed a guy watching a grainy television on his couch just a few miles away from a police station. Relativity Media is gambling $13m on the unifying power of the latter (and hopefully audiences will benefit from the unifying force of the former), because they’ve paid that hefty sum (plus $30m in advertising) to distribute Act of Valor – a high concept action flick featuring Navy SEALs playing Navy SEALs. According to Deadline Abbottabad, the film was scripted by 300 writer Kurt Johnstad with stunt coordinators Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh taking the reins as co-directors. So what’s it about? A group of Navy SEALs heading into enemy territory to save a CIA agent. There’s nothing wrong with high concept, especially since they had intense cooperation with the government and military. Expect this film to show off some heavy action and some taken-from-real-life mission sequences. The wild card here is the untrained actors. Audie Murphy played himself, and it worked out really well. However, taking pure amateurs and placing them into leading roles is always a gamble. Sure, they’re uniquely qualified for the action sequences, but that doesn’t mean the dialogue won’t go down with a chunk of salt. Then again, an action film like this doesn’t need to be Shakespeare. Or so […]

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