Hollywood certainly has a long history of glamorizing or fabricating military history, but WatchMojo has put together a list of the 10 most accurate military operations Hollywood has depicted. Though WM doesn’t say so in their piece, I think they’re referring to the operational parts of these films (as there are parts outside of the ops in this films that are fictionalized). It’s a fantastic idea for a list, and I was extremely interested to see what did and didn’t make the accuracy cut. I have a tremendous respect for the men and women who put on a uniform and serve those who don’t, and I think their stories should be portrayed with as much attention to detail as any stories told. In thanking them for their service, it’s the very least (the VERY least we can do). One of the most memorable theater-going experiences of my life was seeing Saving Private Ryan at a small theater in WV, and scattered throughout the crowd were elderly men in full uniform. Their presence there gave what we saw onscreen so much more weight, and I’ll never forget their faces afterward.
Charlize Theron is the queen of action right now in Hollywood, which isn’t a bad title to attain after 20 years playing mostly deeply serious character roles. Theron, who is originally from South Africa, doesn’t have as deep a resume as some of the actresses from her generation, but it’s not lack of talent that prevents her, more a tendency to take on misguided “message” projects that fall flat. Additionally, if you look for Monster among her 10 Best, you won’t find it as it is one of the few films in my life I’ve walked out of because I found it so deeply unpleasant. Doesn’t mean that she wasn’t outstanding in her acting; just means that there’s only so much hooker/serial killer I can take (and from the eventual director of Wonder Woman….who knew?). She’s on a serious career upswing in the wake of stealing Mad Max: Fury Road (where’s our Furiosa spin-off?) and re-establishing her action dominance in Atomic Blonde. She looks 20 years younger than her actual age, and can beat you up, so it’s unlikely this actress is going to fall prey to the gender wall that eats so many careers. I’d like to see her do more comedy though. She has great timing, and that’s something you can’t teach.
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Sam Shepard, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Oscar nominated actor, passed away this week from complications from ALS at the age of 73. Shepard was never a glamorous actor. He rarely had starring roles; he preferred to work as part of an ensemble. His most memorable role was his only Oscar nomination, playing test pilot Chuck Yeager in 1983’s The Right Stuff. He was an actor who worked more and got progressively better roles as he aged, his next-to-last coming in the acclaimed Netflix series Bloodlines as the patriarch of the troubled Rayburn family. He also was outstanding in the mini-series adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s sequel to Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo. “Presence” is a quality you either intrinsically have as an actor or are constantly working to manufacture. For Shepard, it was effortless. RIP.
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Tom Hardy has, for an actor only 15 or so years into his career, put together a top 10 list of projects that would be the lifetime envy of most. Rarely the leading man, Hardy seems most comfortable in a high-class ensemble where he can build indelible characters that steal movies. Even before he became part of the “Nolan Troupe”, joining the director for Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Dunkirk, Hardy was firmly established as a consummate character actor. Even in films like Mad Max: Fury Road, in which he’s the title character, he was content to let Charlize Theron’s Furiosa steal the movie while he provided the constant and the result was the Academy actually nominated a cool movie for Best Picture. Hardy is one of many actors that had their first high-profile role in Band of Brothers (one of the five best things ever to air on TV) along with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and others. Hardy doesn’t stick just to films, having returned to TV for the massively underrated Peaky Blinders and beginning his own starring vehicle in FX’s Taboo. He’s a chameleon (compare skinny Band of Brothers Hardy with Bane), but at the core of all of his characters is a fierce anger that sometimes burns hot or cold, but it’s always an asset to whatever project he’s undertaking.
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Time Killers will know that I’ve been psyched/scared about Ridley Scott adapting The Martian (opening Friday) for months. The Martian is one of the best books I’ve read in recent years, and I’ve been fairly vocal that I think Ridley has lost it. I’m thrilled by the advance reviews, though and I can’t wait to see it. When he’s on, Ridley is on par with any director in Hollywood. Most people consider his best film to be Alien, and I might agree, but you could make a strong argument for 2001’s Black Hawk Down.
If you’ve never read Mark Bowden’s harrowing account of a mission to take out a warlord in Sudan gone horribly wrong, I could not recommend it more. Ridley perfectly captured the claustrophobic charnel house that Mogadishu turned into for these soldiers. The cast is stellar, the cinematography is the best in any Scott film and why it was overlooked for more critical acclaim is a complete mystery to me. This is a perfect film, and one of the best war movies ever made. If Scott can bring this sort of game to The Martian, man, we’re in for a treat.