Music Break: 10 Patriotic Film Scores To Honor Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! It’s certainly an unusually quiet Memorial Weekend for most of us. Instead of kicking off the ‘official’ Summer travel season here in the US, the Covid-19 pandemic has basically ground everyone as stay-at-home order are still in place in many areas.

But one thing remain the same… in that we ought to still feel grateful for those who have sacrificed their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Freedom is definitely NOT free and the people serving in the various U.S. military branches – Navy, Army, Air Force and the Marines – risk their lives to protect their country and its citizens. This year, we also should extend our gratitude beyond fallen soldiers, but also first responders and healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the un-seen enemy all over the country.

A few years ago, I did a pictorial tribute for Memorial weekend, so this could be its companion post. Even if the film itself is subpar (I’m looking at you Pearl Harbor), doesn’t mean one can’t appreciate the scores. Not all of these are from war-themed films either, as heroes made sacrifices on and off the battlefield. So here you go…

10 patriotic film scores to honor all the heroes on this day of remembrance:

BONUS:

I had to include one more from the Captain America franchise. Not only are the scores patriotic-sounding, but they’re just fantastic to listen over and over.


Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Stay safe and well.


Now, which other patriotic film scores would YOU add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

FlixChatter Review: FURY (2014)

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Hollywood loves making films about WWII and to their credit they produced some great ones. In my opinion, Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line were the last great films about this war. And even though I loved Inglorious Basterds, I don’t count it as true WWII film, if you saw it then you know what I mean by that. This latest one from writer/director David Ayer has an A-list leading man and huge budget, but unfortunately it’s just another by-the-numbers war film.

It’s April 1945 and the war is almost over, as the film opens we see an aftermath of a huge battle and the only people left alive were a group of American soldiers inside a tank named Fury. Its commander is Don Collier (Brad Pitt) and his crewmen are not happy with him since one of their teammates was killed in the battle and they blamed him. After some bickering, they head back to their base camp to get their next assignment. A young recruit named Norman (Logan Lerman) introduced himself to Collier and said he was told he’s now under Collier’s command. Upon seeing the young soldier, Collier was not happy but he has no choice but bring Norman on board. After receiving his next mission from his boss Captain Waggoner (the always great Jason Isaacs), Collier and his men set out to take down more Nazis. As the film moves on, it became pretty generic in this genre, we see big battles, body limbs gets torn apart, the young soldier gets picked on by older soldiers and of course they accept him once he proved himself in the battlefield.

FURY_2014_stillsPitt gave a solid performance as the leader but seeing him in perfect shape and his hair never seem to get messy during the battle scenes really didn’t make his character more believable. When I saw the trailer for this film, I thought he might do another Aldo Raines but thankfully his performance was more grounded than in Tarantino’s flick. The most surprising performance to me was Shia LaBeouf, he’s the man of faith in the group and I thought he was quite good in the role. After seeing him in all those awful Transformers movies, I just couldn’t stand him but here he actually gave a good performance. Unfortunately the rest of the cast members got stuck with clichéd roles. Jon Bernthal is again being cast as the “bad” guy on the team and even though he did a good job, we’ve seen this kind of character many times before. Michael Peña is the token minority character and he’s supposed to be the comic relief guy, in some scenes he’s funny but again we’ve seen this too many times before. Lerman’s Norman is supposed to be the heart and soul of the team since he’s the “innocent” one but he’s not a strong actor so he didn’t really make an impression on me. I think Ayer tried to make his character very similar to that of Charlie Sheen in Platoon but it didn’t work because he’s a supporting character. The film might’ve worked better had it been told from Norman’s perspective and have a better actor in the role.

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David Ayer has been living off the success of his early writing gigs, he wrote the first Fast & Furious film and later that same year another film he wrote became a success, Training Day. As a director, none of his films were successful and here I think he tried too hard to make a “serious” film. There’s a scene halfway way through the film that totally dragged and I wish he’d left it on the cutting room floor, I think I understood what he’s trying to say with that scene but to me it’s just a waste of time since it never really amount to anything significance later in the story. The battle scenes were well staged but seeing green and red laser beams was kind of weird, I’ve never seen a real gun battle in real life so maybe when guns are fired, they shoot out laser beam like that.

Technically Fury is a success but overall it’s just another run of the mill war film that we’ve seen way too many times before. Maybe with a better script, the film could’ve worked better, but there are so many great films out there about this subject that it’s hard to make anything new.
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Have you seen FURY? Well, what did you think?

Top Ten Films of the 90s – by Ted Saydalavong

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Love90sThe 90s was the dawn of heavily usage of CGI in films, bloated budgets and digital sound in movie theaters. Batman Returns was the first film to include Dolby Digital in its soundtrack and Jurassic Park was the first film to have used DTS soundtrack. I saw those two films in theater and that’s when I fell in love with digital sound, I thought I was going to go deaf when the T-Rex roared in Jurassic Park, it was that loud and I love every second of it.

The 90s also gave us some great films so it was very difficult to just pick 10 from the decade. I won’t go into plot details of each film because I think people have seen most if not all of them.

Here are my top ten best films of the 90s, in no particular order:

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Tarantino’s second film after Reservoir Dogs and it was a masterpiece. To be honest, I first saw this film in theater and didn’t care for it. A year later when it came out on VHS, I rented it and was blown by it. I think I’ve watched this film at least 50 times and still waiting for it to come out on Blu-Ray.

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2. Goodfellas (1990)

I saw this film a couple of years after it came out in theater and afterwards I was scared shitless of the mobsters. The first 40 minutes of this film was probably one of the best camera techniques I’ve ever witnessed on film, guess that’s what makes Scorsese so great. And oh yeah the rest of the film was pretty good too. This film didn’t win the best picture of the year was a travesty, I don’t know what the Oscar voters were thinking when they gave the best picture nod to Dances with Wolves. I wonder if the box office number has something to do with it, Goodfellas barely made $50mil while Dances with Wolves made close to $200 mil.

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It didn’t win best picture was bad enough but when the Oscar voters gave the best directing effort to Kevin Costner instead of Scorsese, that was even more of a travesty. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Dances with Wolves was a good film but I don’t know how Costner won over Scorsese for directing. Yes some of you will probably remember that Costner was the golden boy back at that time, everything he touches back then turned to gold.

3. The Thin Red Line (1998)

I love everything about this film, from the amazing cinematography to the haunting music by Hans Zimmer. But nothing will top the way Malick directed this war epic as told from the point of view of the soldiers. Now I know that most people prefer Saving Private Ryan over this film and I won’t disagree with them because I thought both films were great but I just like this one better. I remember when Malick announced that he’s coming back to Hollywood and make a new film, seemed like every big name actors wanted to be in it. This was Malick’s first film since he directed Days of Heaven (one of my all-time favorite films), back in 1978.

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Check out this clip of Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese revealing their favorite films from the 90s. Why? Because the master Scorsese named The Thin Red Line as one of his favorite films from the decade too:


4. Heat (1995)

Michael Mann made three great films in the 90s, The Last of the Mohican, Heat and The Insider. I love all three but I have to go with Heat as the best one. To me Heat is timeless, I have it on Blu-ray and every time I watch it, it doesn’t feel like it’s from the mid-90s. One minor complaint I have with the film it’s a bit too long, a few scenes could’ve been cut out and it still would’ve been a great film. The theme music my Elliot Goldenthal is one of the best I’ve ever heard, can’t believe he’s the same person who composed Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, probably two of the worst comic book based films ever and the soundtrack by Goldenthal was equally awful. He came back and worked with Mann again in 2009’s Public Enemies.

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A little known fact about the cast, Keanu Reeves was cast in the Val Kilmer’s role but dropped out the last minute to do Speed and Kilmer stepped in.

The trailer still gives me goose bumps:


5. Unforgiven (1992)

Clint Eastwood’s last western film and arguably was his best one, I know some will say that The Outlaw Josey Wales was better but I prefer this one. I feel that this film was in some ways a closure to the man with no name trilogy, not the awful Pale Rider. Gene Hackman won an Oscar for his role for the bad ass Little Bill and he truly deserved it. It also has great supporting roles by Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris.

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6. Se7en (1995)

After the disastrous Alien 3, David Fincher was black listed by the Hollywood folks (read more about it here). He got all the blames for that film’s failure and it wasn’t even his fault. So when Arnold Koppleson was looking for a director for Se7en, most of the well known directors at the time all turned him down, they thought that Se7en will ruin their career. So Koppleson offered the job to Fincher and as they say the rest is history.

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The film got rave reviews and was a box office hit and of course it catapulted Fincher into an A-list director. To those who’ve never seen the movie, I won’t say anything about it. Just see it and be amaze by it. Warning though, the film starts out dark and ends even darker.

Check out the trailer:


7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

T2 was the first film I saw in 70mm screen, for those who don’t know what a 70mm screen is and wanted to know more about it, please read here. Basically it’s similar to IMAX today; films shot in 35mm were up-converted so it can be projected on the 70mm screen. I was blown away by the huge wide screen and the six channels surround sound. The film was the first to actually cost over $100mil to produce, seems like every film Cameron makes the budget gets higher and higher.

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I can’t say enough how much I love this movie, I bought a VHS copy when it came out on home video, then when DVD took over, I bought the DVD . Then when Blu-ray came out, I bought the Blu-ray version. Unfortunately none of the home video releases captured what I saw in that big 70mm screen back in the summer of 1991.

8. Fargo (1996)

I didn’t see Fargo until probably 2004 or 2005, why? Well back in 1996 I was working at Video Update, remember them? They’re no longer in business anymore. Anyhoo, when Fargo came out on home video, our store only has four copies and people were mad that we didn’t have more in stock.  Customers would yell at me and asked why the hell do we have 80 copies of Mission: Impossible but only 4 of Fargo? Well I told them, Mission Impossible made over $180 mil at box office and Fargo barely made $20 mil and they still yelled at me. Anyways, after dealing with angry customers daily back at the video store, I decided to not see Fargo because it reminded me of people yelling at me.

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So in mid 2000s, I burrowed a DVD copy of Fargo from a friend and watched it. I automatically fell in love with the film and couldn’t believe I’ve waited so long to see it. The Coen Bros. captured everything right about MN, well maybe the accent was a bit overdone but every else was pitched perfect. The cold weather and the dark days of winter were there on the screen.

9. Carlito’s Way (1993)

This film came out in the fall of 1993 and somehow it was ignored by the audience and critics alike. Maybe people were sick of Pacino around this time, he’d just won an Oscar a year earlier and people were still mad at him for doing The Godfather Part 3, again I’m assuming here.  Whatever the reasons were, they missed out on a great gangster flick, also starring Sean Penn as the sleazy lawyer who was unrecognizable in the role. In my opinion this is Brian De Palma’s best film, he hasn’t done any good film since.

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The film has one of the best foot chase and shoot out scenes ever, trust me you’ll love that sequence when you see the movie. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and give it a rent, you won’t be disappointed.

10. Enemy of the States (1998)

I love this movie and have seen it countless times, it’s a throwback to the 70s espionage genre mixed in with 90s action style. They even brought in Gene Hackman to reprise his role from The Conversation, yeah I know it’s not official that he’s playing the same character but if you’ve seen the 1974 film then you know he’s playing the same person. To date this is Will Smith’s best film and Tony Scott’s last great action film.

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A little history behind this film, it was supposed to star Tom Cruise, reuniting him with Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott, they did Top Gun and Days of Thunder together. But Cruise was stuck doing Eyes Wide Shut he was committed to shooting M: I-2 right after so he couldn’t be in this movie. Will Smith was cast instead and it did a decent number at the box office.


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Well those are my ten best films from the 90s. Agree or disagree? Let me know and feel free to list your own favorites from that era.

Memorial Day Special: Pictorial Tribute to U.S. Soldiers in the Movies

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The final Monday of May is a Memorial Day holiday here, which is a day to remember the fallen men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. As a U.S. resident, I’m definitely grateful of the service of Military men and women. Freedom is definitely NOT free and the people serving in the various U.S. military branches – Navy, Army, Air Force and the Marines – risk their lives to protect their country and its citizens.

So today, as I reflect on their bravery and dedication, I thought I’d do a pictorial tribute to memorable portrayal of American soldiers in the movies from various era and genres. Obviously I have not seen too many war/military-themed movies so these are meant to only be a sampling of military roles represented.

So here are (roughly) 27 of them, simply to coincide with today’s date of May 27:

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Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) – ‘Independence Day’
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Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) & Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) – ‘The Hurt Locker’
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Lt. Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) & Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) – ‘Crimson Tide’
Major "Dutch" Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – 'Predator'
Major “Dutch” Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – ‘Predator’
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Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) & Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) – ‘Captain America’
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U.S. Army Private Witt (Jim Caviezel) – ‘The Thin Red Line’
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Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) & Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) – ‘Forrest Gump’
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Marine Sergeant Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) – ‘Born on the Fourth of July’
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John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) – ‘Rambo’
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Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan) & Lt. Colonel Serling (Denzel Washington) – ‘Courage Under Fire’
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Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson (George C. Scott) – ‘Dr. Strangelove’
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US Army helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) – ‘Source Code’
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LT Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson), Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) – ‘A Few Good Men’
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Navy Commander Shears (William Holden) – ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’
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Major Archie Gate (George Clooney), Sergeant First Class Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Staff Sergeant Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) – ‘Three Kings’
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Gen. Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) – ‘Twelve O’Clock High’
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Sgt. Emil Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.) & Officer Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) – ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’

Now, I made an exception with this last pick. Even though I have not seen Saving Private Ryan yet, but everything I’ve read (including this fine review by good friend Mark) about this Steven Spielberg masterpiece suggests that Tom Hanks as Captain Miller is more than worthy to be included.

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Happy Memorial Day to my fellow Americans!


Now, which other U.S. military movie characters would YOU add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Question of the Week: What are your favorite Criterion Collection films?

By Ted Saydalavong


The Criterion Collection is a video-distribution company selling “important classic and contemporary films” to cinema lovers everywhere. It was founded back in 1984 and they only released their films on Laser Disc (remember those?) back when VHS was the king in home video market. Then later they released their films on DVD when that format became popular and now Blu-ray. I still have my Criterion Collection of Robocop on DVD, I spent $35 on it, that’s nothing though compare to the $100 price tag on the Laser Disc version.

The reason why the price is so high on these Criterion titles is because they preserve the original aspect ratio of films, back in the VHS days there weren’t many titles available in wide-screen format, so a lot of directors weren’t thrill when their films comes out on video and the picture got butchered with pan and scan option. Criterion also offer the director’s cut version of films which again back in the VHS days, you won’t be able to find one in video cassette format.

When DVD became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Criterion also included special features on their discs, a lot of behind the scenes stuff and commentary by the filmmakers. Their brand name took a hit sometime in the late 90s, early 2000s when they decided to release two Michael Bay films, Armageddon and The Rock. After that debacle they’ve decided to only release films that are considered classic or well respected by film critics and fans.

They started releasing their films on Blu-ray in late 2008, after the format war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray has ended. The prices for their discs are still high compare to other Blu-ray titles out in the market, but again they offer the best in quality when it comes to picture and sound. One of the best titles of Criterion Blu-ray—and one of my favorites— is The Thin Red Line (read my review). They went and restored the film to the highest quality with approval from the film’s director, Terrence Malick. Here’s a list of my favorite Criterion Collection, as you can see, another one of Malick’s films made my list:

  • The Thin Red Line (1998)
  • Days of Heaven (1978)
  • The Wages of Fear (1953)
  • Gomorrah (2008)
  • Walkabout (1971)
  • Red Desert (1964)

Wikipedia has the list of Criterion titles available on both DVD and Blu-ray. If you’re into classic films, then you’ll love those Criterion titles and if you have a Blu-ray player, get those films on that format. Here’s the link to list of Criterion films available on Blu-ray.


So what are your favorite Criterion Collection films?

EVERYONE’S A CRITIC: Life as We Know It, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Thin Red Line

It’s been almost a year since I had an Everyone’s a Critic post! I shall try to have this a bit more regular, perhaps more of a quarterly feature on this blog. Special thanks to Mike Beery (check out Mike’s contributor page), my Twi-mom friend Marianne Lemire, and FC’s frequent guest blogger Ted S. for their awesome reviews!


Life as We Know It (2010)

By Mike Beery

If you’ve seen the trailer on this one you know pretty much all there is to know about the story. Holly Berenson (Heigl) is a bakery owner and Eric Messer (Duhamel) is a playboy who works as a TV director for the local NBA team. Back in 2007 the couple is setup on a blind date by their best friends that goes bad fast and is never to be forgotten. These same best friends that later marry and have a super cute little baby girl. When tragedy strikes, Holly and Eric are left as guardians to the orphaned child. The will states they must live under the same roof in order to care for her. That’s when this flick kicks into overdrive.

The next hour is spent stringing together gag after gag showing how hard babies and toddlers can be to raise. How they can get in the way of your love life – if you have one to begin with! Eric is still a crazed bachelor that seems to only be doing this because he has to. Holly, a very desirable woman can’t seem to get his attention. As the movie wears on Eric is slowly transformed into this awesome Dad, that finally seems to be noticing Holly’s charms. Yes it seems that a wild ladies-man can be conquered by the lure of a good woman and “family life”.

The tension of forced parenthood and the chaos of trying to live with someone you’re not involved with climaxes just when Eric gets a job offer that takes him to the other side of the country. This is a welcomed break from all the toddler antics and it’s where the films develops some drama.

The film turns “feel good” after that conflict is resolved then quickly moves into happy ending mode. The remainder of the movie is a chick-flick fantasy come true with Eric becoming a dashing prince that has changed his player ways.

If you love babies, sexual tension, a relationship that seemed doomed but ends happily then this one if for you. As a chick-flick, this will do well as a rental. It’s got all the essential elements wrapped up into one neat package.


Twilight Saga: ECLIPSE (2010)

by Marianne Lemire

[Review may contain spoilers]

A while back my sister asked me if I wanted to read the Twilight series. I said ‘no thank you’ – I’m not interested in some teenage hype books. However, when the first Twilight movie series trailer came out – well, let’s just say my whole perception of the series changed. I watched the movie when it came out on DVD and that’s all it took for me to become a fan. I’ve since purchased the books series and read them twice. I now own all 3 movies and watch them multiple times. And I can’t wait for the two upcoming Breaking Dawn movies to come out.

Let me tell you why I love the story so much. What I see between Bella and Edward is rare and you don’t see in movies any more. A love and respect for one another. Bella Swan is a girl who is clumsy and insecure. Edward Cullen is a guy so handsome that you are not able to tear your eyes away from him. Bella and Edward are drawn to one another by an unnatural union of love. Their emotions for each other are so vivid, so intense, that you feel you are a part of their lives and you are drawn to their characters. What makes this unusual is that Edward is a vampire. There is also Jacob, someone that Bella became friends with when she first moved to Forks. Their friendship strengthened when Edward had left Bella for awhile thinking he was keeping Bella safe from the vampire Victoria. Victoria became the enemy when Edward killed her lover, James, while trying to protect Bella. During the time of Edward’s absence, Bella and Jacob’s friendship grew, but Bella couldn’t deny her love for Edward. Bella is still real adamant about Edward turning her – he would only agree to do it if she became his wife. He presented Bella with his grandmother’s engagement ring and proposed to her. Bella seemed hesitant. First, there’s the whole idea of getting married at her age and she was also concerned about the rumors going around. But it also mean that she would be with Edward forever as a vampire. So she said yes, but she wouldn’t wear the ring just yet.

Jacob was going through a rough time and was been keeping his distance, part for because of his love for Bella, but also because the turn of events in his life. Jacob is a werewolf along with the other members of his tribe. Now with the latest killings in Seattle, he has resurfaced to make sure that Bella is safe. The group behind the killings are newborns (newly turned vampires) and the person behind this new army is Victoria, her mission is to avenge James’ death. But they also had to worry about the Volturi’s involvement – the group who police the activities of all vampires – where the newborns were not hiding any of their actions. The Cullen family have come to terms with Jacob and his wolf pack to form a truce to end the killings and destroy the newborns and Victoria.

The battle between the groups was action packed, intense and engaging. While the fight was going on – there was only Edward and Seth (who is part of the wolf pack) to protect Bella in a secluded area, but Victoria along with Riley (the leader of the newborns) was successful in their quest to find them. Between Edward and Seth – they were able to fight off and kill them both – Bella is now safe. The Volturi showed up after the battle to make sure everything was taken care of – and Bella announced that a date has been set when she will be turned. Edward and Bella can now continue with their lives knowing the relationship between the Cullens and Jacob and the pack seems to be working itself out and they have a better understanding of each other and have mutual respect.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  I guess I am a hopeless romantic.


The Thin Red Line (1998)

By Ted Saydalavong

After 20 years absence, Terrence Malick came back to Hollywood and made, in my opinion, one of the best war films ever. It’s on my top five favorite films of all time. It tells the fictional story of United States forces during the Battle of Guadalcanal in WW II. The film focused mostly on the five soldiers in The C Company, these soldiers were played by Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Ben Chaplin and Elias Koteas. The men of C Company have been brought to Guadalcanal as reinforcements in the campaign to seize the island from the Japanese. The film was based on a novel by James Jones. The original cut of the film ran over 5 hours long and after trimming it down to two and half hours, the footage of the performances by Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Sheen, Gary Oldman, Bill Pullman, Jason Patric, Viggo Mortensen and Mickey Rourke have been removed.

As with most of Malick’s films, we get to hear what each character is thinking and we see some flashbacks of their lives back in the States. Out of all the characters in the movie, I thought Nic Nolte’s character was the most important one. He played an aging Lt. Colonel Tall, who’s been passed over for promotions too many times and wants to win this battle so he can impress his superiors and maybe getting that promotion finally. Nolte’s performance was so intense that you’d think his character is a lunatic, but to me it’s his last despiration attempt to prove to his superiors and to himself that he can still command and win a battle at his age.

Jim Caviezel (left) in The Thin Red Line

There’s a great scene in the movie where he orders his captain played by Elias Koteas to attack the hills but the captain refused because his men are dying and outnumbered, the expression’s on Nolte’s face was just pitch perfect. You can tell that he can’t believe one of his men is disobeying him and that he cannot do anything about it. I thought it was Nolte’s greatest performance and he should’ve gotten an Oscar for it. There’s also another great scene by Nolte after they took over the Japanese base camp, he was sitting by himself and he looked around at the corpses and started crying. Is he crying because he won the battle or was it from regret that he pushed his men too hard and a lot of them lost their lives? I’m leaning towards the latter.

Another great thing about this movie was that Malick decided to show the horror of war through emotional and psychological side instead of gore. The film has lots of violence but it wasn’t as graphic as most war films. Also, the score my Hans Zimmer is so haunting and beautiful at the same. Last but certainly not least, is the great cinematography by John Toll. The film looked spectacular. Malick wanted to shoot the whole film on 65mm but found out that there aren’t many theaters that can project 70mm prints. So he and Toll decided to just shoot it in 35mm.

If you’re a fan of Malick and haven’t seen this film yet, please check it out. And if you a Blu-ray player, I highly recommend you get the Criterion Collection (watch for a CC related post tomorrow). The picture and sound is just amazing.


Have you seen any of these movies? Love ’em or hate ’em, chime in below.