Posts tagged Iraq

Red Dawn Movie

“Red Dawn” Is Dumb, but Emotional


“Dumb, but Emotional

“Hotshots” looks at a movie!

Red Dawn was shot in 2010, but studio problems delayed its release until two years later.

And whenever a film is delayed, that usually means that it is not too good, which is also the case with this one.

It stars Chris Hemsworth and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, although when he filmed it, Hemsworth had not yet become “Thor” in some other movies.

Also, the delay allowed the filmmakers time to change the invading army troops from Chinese to North Korean, so that the distributors could sell the film in China and not face discrimination.

So, if you want to see a film about a group of American teenagers who fight an invading army from a foreign country, I recommend that you see the 1984 version instead, which stars Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen in his first feature film, Jennifer Grey, Ben Johnson, Harry Dean Stanton, and Powers Booth.

And whenever a film has plenty of star power, that sometimes means that it is better than good, which is also the case with that one.

The story in the first one takes place in Colorado, instead of in Spokane, Washington, which is where the story in the new one takes place.

Okay, a widespread blackout occurs in the northwest corridor of the United States, and a TV news report warns, “Don’t go outside unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

The next morning paratroopers land in town and invading troops take over the town and kill and capture its citizens.

Jed is a Marine visiting his family between tours of duty in Iraq, and Matt is his brother, who is in high school. Jed senses the danger, and he and Matt take off for the family cabin in the mountains, along with some of Matt’s high-school friends, and they start training with Jed’s leadership to form a resistance army and fight the invading North Koreans.

So, the film consists of lots of fighting, lots of explosions, and lots of destruction and dying.

Even though they get some support from a very few real soldiers, there are just too many unanswered questions and holes in this movie.

Red Dawn is dumb, but emotional, and once again I say if you want to see a better version of this movie, see the one that came out in 1984.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

Fair Game - Movie

Fair Game – Movie Trailer


The Bourne Identity director Doug Liman teams with screenwriters Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth to streamline Joseph Wilson’s and Valerie Plame’s books detailing the explosive outing of undercover CIA agent Plame into a tense docudrama thriller starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. At the time her cover was blown by the George W. Bush administration, Plame (Watts) was combing Iraq for evidence of weapons of mass destruction as part of the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division. Her husband, American diplomat Joe Wilson was attempting to verify a claim that the Iraqis had recently purchased enriched uranium from Niger when the White House began beating the war drums before any solid evidence had been gathered. When Joe penned an editorial in The New York Times decrying the hasty call to war, a prolific Washington, D.C. journalist took the opportunity to reveal Plame’s identity as a CIA operative, an act that not only put her career in jeopardy, but also left her various contacts overseas in a precarious position. Years later, a jobless and publicly disgraced Plame wages a vicious fight to clear her name, set the record straight, and keep her family from falling apart.

Fair Game Movie

“Fair Game” The Target, Not Spying


“The Target, Not Spying”

FAIR GAME tells the real-life story of an incredibly serious incident that happened in recent history that is not talked about anymore and unfortunately seems to be on its way to becoming forgotten.

Fair Game MovieThis is unfortunate, because what happened was so serious that the law makes committing it a crime punishable by death.

Ironically, the law was passed during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, former CIA head.

The crime? Exposing the identity of an undercover CIA agent.

And just to make matters more intriguing, a case has already been made that Bush the son was obsessed with outshining his father’s accomplishments and might have invaded Iraq in 2003 because his father had failed to do so in 1991 during the First Gulf War.

The events of this movie are the background for the reasons stated at the time that led Bush the son to invade Iraq.

The subjects who were involved were CIA agent Valerie Plame, played so well by Naomi Watts, and her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, played just as well by Sean Penn.

The movie begins shortly after 9/11 with some stock footage of Vice President Dick Cheney saying to the camera, “We will take whatever action is necessary to defend our security and our freedom.”

What he doesn’t say, but what turned out to be the case is “even if it is illegal.”

Then we see scenes of the professional life and family life of Valerie, who was an expert on the Middle East, but she cannot tell Joe where she has been or what she has done. They communicate by Post-It notes on the refrigerator.

Because of his qualifications and familiarity with Africa, Joe is asked by the CIA to go to Niger to investigate if Saddam Hussein were obtaining uranium from there for his nuclear-weapons program, and Joe’s report is that Hussein was not.

That is not what President Bush said in his infamous State of the Union address, Iraq was invaded, Joe wrote an article in THE NEW YORK TIMES entitled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” and in retaliation the White House leaked that Valerie worked for the CIA.

FAIR GAME refers to the target and not to spying, and it is a great movie that should never be forgotten for its subject matter and its message.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

The A-Team Movie

“The A-Team” Full of Sound and Fury


“Full of Sound and Fury”

THE A-TEAM is based on the television series of the same name that ran from 1983 to 1987 on NBC-TV, except that the war references have been updated from the Vietnam War to the war in Iraq.

In other words, its target audience of teenage boys hadn’t even been born when the TV series was running, and the teenagers who enjoyed the TV show back then are in their 40s now and probably way too old to enjoy this tired, old retread of a knockoff.

The movie opens “Somewhere in Mexico,” and the leader of the team of renegade soldiers of fortune, Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, played by Liam Neeson, escapes death by dogs and travels “Somewhere Else in Mexico” to rescue Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck, played by Bradley Cooper.

Face is tied up inside a pile of tires by the Bad Mexicanos, and when asked how he is doing says in his characteristic manner, “I’m living the dream!”

The A-Team MovieIn the meantime, B.A. Baracus gets his customized van back, which means something only if you are familiar with the TV series, and, of course, “B.A.” officially stands for “Bad Attitude,” but we all know the initials stand for something else.

And speaking of initials, the three of them find their fourth member in a hospital as usual, he is the pilot of the team, his name is H.M. Murdock, and his initials stand for “Howling Mad,” because he either is or isn’t.

At this point, the movie turns into nonstop action and a nonstop attempt at humorous jokes, what every teenage boy thoroughly enjoys.

Then we are told that it is eight years and 80 successful missions later, Jessica Biel shows up as Capt. Charisa Sosa, she has a history with Faceman, but they haven’t seen each other in three years, and she claims that her fondest memory of Faceman is leaving him.

And the main plot of the movie begins, which is for the team to stop a counterfeiting operation in Baghdad and which involves double-, triple-, and quadruple-crosses.

Of course, Hannibal’s catchphrase, “I love it when a plan comes together,” gets some mileage, too.

Now, I hesitate to use a reference from Shakespeare to talk about this movie, but I will.

THE A-TEAM is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but a waste of time.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

The A-Team - Movie

The A-Team – Movie Trailer


Director Joe Carnahan resurrects the popular 1980s-era action series with this explosive reboot following the adventures of four Iraq War veterans who begin a second career as mercenaries for hire. Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson), Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper), B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), and H.M. “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley) are a group of former Special Forces operatives who have been fighting the good fight for eight years when they’re sentenced to military prison for a crime they didn’t commit. Breaking out with relative ease, they embark on a treacherous quest to clear their names while being hunted across the globe by Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel), a high-ranking military officer and one of Face’s many former lovers. Meanwhile, mysterious CIA operative Lynch (Patrick Wilson) offers tips that help point the federal fugitives in the right direction, which seems to lead straight to former military contractor Pike (Brian Bloom), who may have been responsible for setting them up in the first place. Just when it seems that the A-Team has all the evidence needed to prove their innocence, however, they discover that their latest mission is just getting started.

Green Zone - Movie

“Green Zone” Simple Story with Complex Overtones


Simple Story with Complex Overtones

“Hotshots” looks at a movie!

Green Zone - Movie PosterGREEN ZONE is the third collaboration of director Paul Greengrass and actor Matt Damon, the first two being the 2004 THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and the 2007 THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, and as TIME magazine put it, this movie essentially parachutes “their franchise’s hero, Jason Bourne, into the toxic reality of Iraq.”

This time, however, Damon plays U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, and his assignment right after the war in Iraq began is to lead his team of soldiers to find the weapons of mass destruction that were the cause of the war in the first place.

So, we see Chief Miller and his team roll up to a site in Baghdad that is a disaster, full of Iraqi looters and even an Iraqi sniper in the area.

Miller finds the U.S. officer in charge and tells him, “Intel says we’ve got live chemical agents in this site!”

After they take out the sniper, they go into the building and find . . . nothing. No chemical agents, no weapons of mass destruction, nothing, nada, zip, zilch!

This is not the first time, either. Chief Miller and his team hit another site the week before that was supposedly based on good intelligence, but the site turned out to be nothing more than a toilet factory.

Then we meet Clark Poundstone, played by Greg Kinnear. Poundstone is from Pentagon Special Intelligence, and he swears by the intelligence they have been receiving from an Iraqi source with the code name “Magellan.”

In the meantime, Miller encounters an Iraqi civilian who tells him about a private meeting taking place with high-value Iraqis. They call the man “Freddy,” and he leads them to the house where, sure enough, one of Saddam Hussein’s high-level generals, named Al-Rawi, is at the meeting, but he escapes after a firefight.

At this point other American troops come onto the scene, and a fight breaks out between them and Miller’s team over a black book that was obtained at the house.

There is the suspicion that General Al-Rawi is actually Magellan and was intentionally feeding the Americans false information, which Poundstone might even have known was false.

At this point, the movie turns into one long complicated chase that is awfully confusing about who is who and what is going on.

GREEN ZONE is a simple story with complex overtones.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

Green Zone - Movie Poster

Green Zone – Movie Trailer


United 93 director Paul Greengrass explores the aftermath of the Iraq invasion in this feature adaptation of author Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s literary expose Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone. A onetime Baghdad bureau chief of the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran was present as American forces attempted to set up a provisional government on the grounds surrounding former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s opulent palace. The resulting governing body, according to critics, existed in a bubble so far-removed from the grim realities of the Iraq War that it failed to properly assess the needs of the people. In this fictional thriller set during the U.S.-led occupation of Baghdad, director Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland use Chandrasekaran’s journalistic account as the foundation for the story of an officer who joins forces with a senior CIA officer to unearth evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is certain that Hussein has been stockpiling WMDs in the Iraqi desert, but in their race from one empty site to the next, they soon stumble across evidence of an elaborate cover up. As a result, Miller realizes that operatives on both sides of the conflict are attempting to spin the story in their favor. Now, as Miller searches for answers made ever more elusive by covert and faulty intelligence, the truth becomes the most valuable weapon of all. Will those answers prove pivotal in clearing a rogue regime, or escalate the war in a region that grows increasingly unstable with each passing day? Amy Ryan co-stars as the New York Times foreign correspondent who travels to Iraq investigating the U.S. government’s allegations about weapons of mass destruction, with Greg Kinnear appearing in the role of an additional CIA officer, and Antoni Corone essaying the role of a colonel. Brendan Gleeson rounds out the main cast for this Universal Pictures production.

The Men Who Stare at Goats - Movie

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” Surrealist Insanity


Surrealist Insanity

“Hotshots” looks at a movie!

The Men Who Stare at Goats - Movie PosterTHE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS is based on the 2005 nonfiction book by Jon Ronson, and it is a comedic look at real-life events about a top-secret branch of an experimental U.S. Army unit called the New Earth Battalion, which was created to change the way that wars are fought.

As the film says at one point, the Army was investigating how love and gentleness could win wars, and a notice at the beginning of the film says, “More of this is true than you would believe.”

Full disclosure: You might need to have served in the military in order to appreciate the full impact of this film. Otherwise, you might dismiss it as a fantasy instead of an honest account of just how cockeyed and wacky life can be in the military, even in the midst of a war.

In other words, young audiences today will probably not enjoy this film as much as older people who actually spent time in the military, as I did for three years back in the Sixties.

Most of the film takes place in 2003 in Iraq, but we also get flashbacks that show how the New Earth Battalion came to be and some of the training and experiences of recurring characters.

George Clooney plays Lyn Cassady, one of the Jedi Warriors, as they called themselves, and the most gifted psychic that another character who had served with Cassady had ever met.

That character tells Bob Wilton, a reporter played by Ewan McGregor, about the New Earth Battalion and says, “We were trying to kill animals with just our minds.”

That is where the title comes from, because in the early days the unit had a secret goat lab, and the men would try to kill a goat just by staring at it.

Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey also star in the film, and Wilton meets them all after he first meets Cassady in Kuwait and they travel into Iraq to accomplish Cassady’s secret mission.

CATCH-22, the 1961 novel by Joseph Heller that was made into a 1970 film, captured the surrealist insanity of World War II Army life during that war.

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS is the CATCH-22 of the war in Iraq, and as the film says, more of it is true than you would believe.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

The Men Who Stare at Goats - Movie Poster

The Men Who Stare at Goats – Movie Trailer


Loosely adapted from a nonfiction book by Jon Ronson, Grant Heslov’s directorial debut The Men Who Stare at Goats begins as heartbroken reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) heads off to imbed himself with troops as the Iraq War starts, but Wilton can’t get himself into the country until he chances upon Lyn Cassady (George Clooney). It turns out Lyn spent decades as part of the New Earth Army — a platoon of men, led by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), who lived a new-age lifestyle in an attempt to cultivate extrasensory perception that would allow the U.S. army to win wars nonviolently. Bill now has a secret mission in Iraq, and allows Bob to come along. As the duo gets into a series of misadventures, Lyn shares with Bob the colorful history of the New Earth Army and chronicles the nefarious machinations of Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), whose jealousy of Lyn’s remarkable skill brought an end to the group.

The Hurt Locker - Movie

“The Hurt Locker” A Film of Ultimate Reward


A Film of Ultimate Reward

“Hotshots” looks at a movie!

The Hurt Locker - Movie PosterTHE HURT LOCKER is perhaps the best film on the war in Iraq you will ever see, if not the best film on war itself.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the story is about the day-to-day experiences of an Army three-man detonation team whose job is to defuse any improvised explosive devices that are found before they can be detonated.

This is more than tricky, because an IED can be exploded on contact, exploded by a timer, or exploded by someone watching from safety who can set it off by using a cell phone.

So, a team consists of two men with rifles who scan the area on the lookout for anything suspicious while the team leader dons a heavy bomb suit and walks up to the bomb, which is usually hidden or covered, and tries to defuse it.

The story begins in 2004 in Baghdad, and one such team has just lost their leader in an explosion, when their company has only 38 days left in their rotation before they can be shipped back to the United States.

Staff Sergeant James, played superbly by Jeremy Renner, joins the team, and he is a “cowboy,” a “wild man” as one colonel calls him out of admiration, and he doesn’t always work by the rules. When he comes across a trunkfull of bombs in a car, he takes off his bomb suit, telling his team, “There’s enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus. If I’m going to die, I want to die comfortable.”

You have heard of “black humor”? Sgt. James has a sense of humor that could be called “black-hole humor.”

When asked by an officer what the best way is to defuse a bomb, Sgt. James tells him “the way you won’t die.”

As the days and the defused bombs go by, we get a countdown to the number of days left in rotation, and a sense of foreboding envelopes the team and the audience.

The action is not just bombs and defusings and explosions, however, We see the team at work and at play, plus their interaction with other soldiers and civilians, and the music is haunting.

The title of the film is a phrase that refers to “a place of ultimate pain.”

THE HURT LOCKER is a film of ultimate pleasure and reward.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

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