Shitty Movie Sundays: Strike Commando

Who wants to watch some bottom-feeding trash? I do! And we all should. Films like Strike Commando, the 1987 shitfest from Italian filmmaker Bruno Mattei, make serious film and art house fodder all the better. How would we be able to gauge excellence were it not for films like Strike Commando giving us a baseline of inferiority? Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Strike Commando”

Empty Balcony: Hacksaw Ridge

Is it okay to watch a Mel Gibson film again? Has he paid enough Hollywood penance for being a drunken, anti-Semitic, Catholic fundamentalist? Because, let’s not forget, the man is an Oscar-winning filmmaker. Gibson’s personal travails matter little to this reviewer. If the idea of watching a film helmed by Mel Gibson still leaves a viewer with a bad taste in their mouth, even though Gibson spent the better part of a decade in the weeds, then just don’t watch it. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: Hacksaw Ridge”

The Empty Balcony: Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down is perhaps the simplest movie I’ve ever viewed, and also the most complicated. The United States intervention in Somalia is a footnote in America’s foreign policy history, but it is quite weighted, to the point that a student of recent American politics ignores it at their own peril. The initial American operation in Somalia, Operation Provide Relief, part of UNOSOM I (United Nations Operation in Somalia I), began in August 1992 as a response to the massive amount of killing and humanitarian suffering throughout the country. It was followed by UNITAF (Unified Task Force), also known as Operation Restore Hope, which lasted from December 1992 to May 1993. During that time, the United States suffered 43 killed and 143 wounded, but was able to increase the security of much of the country. After the mission ended, however, the peace did not last, as the warlords reasserted their control and chaos took hold once again. This led to UNOSOM II, Operation Gothic Serpent, and ultimately to the Battle of Mogadishu. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Black Hawk Down”

The Empty Balcony: Cross of Iron

Cross of Iron, Sam Peckinpah’s entry into the World War II genre from 1977, is a study in two-dimensional characterizations. Well-written, well-acted, and well-directed, this perfect storm of effort on the part of all involved results in a bloody violent film whose characters barrel their way through without nuance, relying on the audience to fill in the blanks. How successful the film is, therefore, depends on a viewer’s understanding of war, or what they think they understand. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Cross of Iron”

The Empty Balcony: Three Kings

There haven’t been that many films made about the Persian Gulf War. A quick search in the tubes only turned up a handful. A quick, forgetful war (from the American perspective, anyway), there would have been no real lasting impact on American society wrought by the conflict had it not been for our recent misadventures in the desert. We tore a bloody swath through Kuwait and Iraq for one hundred hours in 1991, and came home intact and victorious. We seemed to dictate everything that happened on the ground and in the air. The war was fought on our terms completely. Mistakes were few, casualties were few, while damage inflicted on the enemy was severe. We decided when it began, and we decided when it was over. For us, it was the perfect war. Our only problem was we failed to recognize that the enemies of the future could learn lessons from it. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Three Kings”

The Empty Balcony: Patton

Some actors transcend the characters they play. Some become so familiar to us that no matter the effort we make, it is impossible to suspend disbelief, to see the performance before the performer. Such is the price of fame, at least from the perspective of the audience. As an example, think of Al Pacino’s portrayal of Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross. An incredible performance from a legendary American actor, seething with Pacino’s own brand of exuberance. That role, however, was where Pacino slipped into type. Moviegoers no longer see the characters he plays. They see Al Pacino, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Patton”