Lone Survivor (2014)

Genre: Action, Biography, Drama, War

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson (book)

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster

Rating:★★★★★

Lone Survivor is extremely entertaining and impacting bringing a much needed refreshing change to the genres taking up the new release spots in the cinemas at the moment. It came as a huge surprise to me that how this release can be so great and somewhat flawless even though the man behind the camera brought the shame of Battleship to Hollywood not so long ago. However it seems that Peter Berg has fully recovered and I hope that his newest film will get the credit it so deserves. Perfectly executed alongside great performances, The Lone survivor will most definitely be up there as one of the best films of the year, despite it still being early January.

The Lone Survivor is based and adapted from the real life failed mission “Operation Red Wings” which saw a team of four US Navy Seals attempt to kill notorious and dangerous Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. Mark Wahlberg is Marcus Luttrell, the team’s leader and inspiration who we see alongside Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) racing back to the barracks attempting to break their record times in competition. Out of breathe and planning a forfeit Luttrell is soon interrupted and stopped, being told he must brief his team and set upon Operation Red Wing. Marcus Luttrell alongside Danny Dietz, Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch) Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster) start their mission and set off to find and execute Ahmad Shahd.

In overlooking forests just outside a local village which Shahd and other Taliban members are operating in, perimeters are set and the team can only wait for further orders. Sleeping in the bushes at their posts the team are then intruded by a herd of goats accompanied by their farmers, Luttrell’s and his teams position and safety, along with the mission has been comprised, knowing that any option will eventually lead to combat they release the two farmers and scout back to higher ground. Desperately trying to reach their home base by radio for extraction their attempts fail leaving them off the grid and alone. It doesn’t take long until they are found and hunted down by firing Taliban members, Luttrell’s Navy Seals now have to put all their training into use as they are up against impossible odds but with skill, precision and pride the team won’t give up without a fight.

In simple terms and to the core Lone Survivor is just another American War film, however the impact and final product is very different and refreshing along with the way in which its been crafted. Peter Berg creates so many brutal and bloody scenes which have been crafted with excellence, the shot types and the quick pace cutting make for a tense and thrilling encounter whilst at times the long scenery shots are breath-taking. Each death is powerful as we see the full extent and gruesome consequence something many “action” films fail to achieve. The film has also been recently nominated for an Oscar due to its sound, which is truly amazing and definitely deserved, the mix between loud drones to soft melodies really reflect the scenes as well as the emotions.

The opening scenes of Lone Survivor establish the relationships between the team members in the typical “bro-mance” way, however as the film and story develops the relationships and bonds on show are really heart-felt and emotional. Many have claimed that Lone Survivor really does capture the true and realistic bonds that soldiers form with each-other resulting in a big family of brothers. The credit has to be given to the outstanding performances from Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and the way in which they portray such emotional heart-breaking bonds. The horror of Lone Survivor though that makes it most impacting is that it’s based on a real-life true event which when reflected on leaves you speechless and even teary, especially following the credits which host tribute to the fallen Seals of Operation Red Wing.

Lone Survivor is really one of the best “war” films I have seen in recent years maybe dating back until Saving Private Ryan. It’s typically brutal and violent but it’s the emotional and crafting aspect of Peter Berg’s newest film that is truly flawless. Mark Wahlberg again displays a fine performance whilst the supporting cast is outstanding. Lone Survivor is sure to be a big hit as it is easily watchable, entertaining and action-packed making it a must-see upon release.

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Delivery Man (2013)

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Ken Scott

Writers: Ken Scott, Martin Petit

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders, Chris Pratt

Rating: ★★★½

Delivery Man finds itself with tough competition this January as many “Oscar-tipped” releases take all the headlines however this enjoyable comedy has its own shining elements that shouldn’t be overlooked. Starring Vince Vaughan it follows a funny inventive storyline that evolves into an even funnier and heartfelt comedy that’s easily watchable, fun and entertaining. Delivery Man isn’t anything special but it has enough gags and laughs to make it well worthwhile.

Vince Vaughn is David Wozniak a less than average man who works as a delivery driver at his family’s business the Brooklyn based Wozniak Meat Store. Irresponsible, unreliable and lazy David is wasting away his life and finds himself in over his head with debt and clutching at straws in his struggling relationship with “girlfriend” Emma (Cobie Smulders). However when he comes home to a surprising visitor his life gets turn upside down after being given unimaginable news that he is the biological father to 533 children. David might not be the best at delivering meat or even life itself but as he soon finds out he was very good at delivering quality sperm. As a young man David earned money as a sperm donor and a mix up at the clinic meant that his deposits fathered all 533 children that year, 20 years later 143 children have filed a court-case demanding the true identity of their father to be revealed.

David soon decides that he wants to turn his life around and be there for each and every one of his children. Given a file containing all 143 profiles he randomly one by one starts making up for a lot of last time and acts as their guardian angel. Not telling them he’s their father and the famous “Starbuck” donor he manages to bond special relationships. However as his debt crisis worsens and his relationship is put under more pressure David soon finds himself facing a number of dilemmas that could affect everything.

Delivery Man certainly has an eye-catching and entertaining storyline which meets expectation.  The plot throughout stays Interesting due to a number of twists and turns as David is faced with problem after problem. However the highlight of this comedy is the high maintenance of humour throughout with jokes and gags almost being constant. What is also great and most refreshing is how Delivery Man pauses to become more serious and heartfelt at times providing a great balance between the two. The main catalysts behind the laughs are David himself and his best friend/lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt) who together combines to make great comedy from physical to scripted.  Delivery Man also has a lot of heart to balance out that humour, mainly achieved by a well-written script. The relationships formed between David and his kids alongside the different characters and personalities met provide a wide range of emotions from being completely hilarious to quite heart-warming.

Not so many years ago Ken Scott and Martin Petit teamed up to make Starbuck a critic’s choice “hit” which became a popular film but only for a limited audience. Ken Scott’s Delivery Man is his solo effort of an American remake with the hope that it becomes a well-known name. I have to admit I was slightly disappointed to discover this wasn’t a totally original story but knowing that it came from the same brains behind “Starbuck” is some consolation and his second shot should definitely be applauded. The story is great, originally hinted and rumoured to be similarly based on a real life case, however it’s unique and humorous providing great entertainment.

The real downside however to Delivery Man was the trailer and how it included the funniest scenes and gags meaning there was a lack of surprises and laugh-out-loud moments upon viewing leaving us with only a few gut-busting laughs. The combination of the great story, good acting and well written script however saves Delivery Man from falling into that group of failed comedies. Guaranteed laughs and an entertaining enjoyable watch Delivery Man shouldn’t be overlooked this January.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Action

Director: Peter Jackson

Writers:  Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro and J.R.R. Tolkien

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom

Rating: ★★★★

The much anticipated sequel and the long awaited second in the Hobbit series, The Desolation of Smaug had very high expectations. It had to capture the fun fantasy world and feeling An Unexpected Journey achieved, alongside living up to the action packed visual entertainment it promised. It is impossible to dislike the Hobbit films or even The Lord of The Rings Trilogy that the current series plays prequels to, in my perspective it’s due to its luring story that you get so attached. I went into the cinema knowing full well I would enjoy this film but yet with an element of anticipation and eagerness to see what was so new and different.

Many have criticised not only the second installation of The Hobbit series but the whole concept itself due to its lack of ability to recreate accurately J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. However I haven’t read the novel nor looked into how the films make a comparison, I take on The Hobbit series as a set of films and those that are made to recreate the story for greater entertainment.

In An Unexpected Journey we follow Bilbo Baggins’ (Martin Freeman) adventure as the Hobbit burglar on the quest to reclaim former homeland Erebor, with the Dwarves and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), as they battle the powerful and great Dragon Smaug. After some back-logging we continue the group’s quest once again and straight back into action as they continue to be hunted by the Orcs. Seeking shelter in a skin-changers house, a being that changes from a hairy man to a slightly hairier bear they escape the Orcs briefly. They then head towards a mysterious and dangerous forest alone, due to Gandalf’s personal quest of regaining peace in middle earth. The film then fuels from entertaining battles and action as well as giving important plot development for the latter scenes and the final film.

The Desolation of Smaug also sees the arrival of a few new and entertaining characters as well as the focus being turned on a few that were in the shadows in the previous instalment. Whilst travelling through the forest containing controlling illusions and haunting spiders the Dwarves get captured by on duty Elves, a familiar Legolas (Orlando Bloom) alongside most entertaining and impressive the “she-elf” Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) who take the angered Dwarves back to their Kingdom. There is also much more focus on dwarf Killi (Aidan Turner) who strikes a relationship with the feisty she-elf which also results in striking up more conflict.

Half an hour of Orc bashing and barrel-riding later the focus then turns on another new character, Bard (Luke Evans) who not only plays hero and smuggler for the Dwarves and Bilbo but could play hero for the whole of middle earth after it is revealed he has common enemy with the Dragon Smaug. In the final scenes the focus switches from Bilbo to Gandalf, who battles and fights with a foe whose evil and darkness forebodes a great war. Confronting the Dragon in the meantime Bilbo awakes more evil and danger which puts the whole city in extinction.

There is so much happening in The Hobbit it does take some working-out and reflection however this is not a criticism but a positive, with much entertainment and action balanced out with important plot developing dialogue it makes the full running time important and worth-while. The action scenes where so varied and different it was refreshing and clever, the opening scene was tense and thrilling whilst “the barrel scene” was comedic. The comedy didn’t stop there as the dialogue included some witty lines especially from Dwarves Killi and Bifur.

Admiration away from the action and script, The Desolation of Smaug as expected and once again provided flawless visuals and effects alongside make-up which I would guess will be nominated for an Oscar. The achievement of creating such terrifying looking Orcs is amazing, whilst the Dragon was stunning. The scene that glorifies The Hobbit’s effects is one of the highlights of the whole film, near the closing scene Smaug dripping with gold breaks free and shakes in the sky scattering gold everywhere, visually looking flawless.

The cast and cameos The Hobbit has is also incredible, with a long list of world famous and popular stars hogging the credits list. This time round most notably Stephen Fry is centre stage playing the role which sees him Master of Laketown whilst we finally hear the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug. My favourite performance however comes from Evangeline Lilly playing Tauriel, the “she-elf, she captures such an entertaining and powerful performance which is simply great to watch, another pick for an Oscar.

My only criticisms of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug are aimed at its frustrating ending and slightly confusing mixed plots that also have very expected climaxes. In general the film was very entertaining and fun to watch, the expectations were met. The entertainment and success achieved from this film were mainly due to the fights and new characters. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug has now only created a huge amount of anticipation for the finale of the series which is certainly going to be the biggest and the best. Peter Jackson’s second instalment of The Hobbit series is by no means perfect or a classic, but it’s really one you have to see.