Reviews: ‘Act of Valor,’ ‘This Means War’
Act of Valor
“Act of Valor” incorporates new ‘reality’ to a Navy Seals operation. Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh secured cooperation of the Navy and Director of Photography Shane Hurlbut (fresh from McG’s “Terminator Salvation”) developed assorted small digital camera like helmet cams which ensure a shaking in their boots prospective whether deployed in the air at 18,000 feet or storming yachts.
Placing ‘real’ Seals in harm’s way (live ammo), the story has the squad rescuing an agent from drug lords which opens intelligence portals to a looming terrorist attack on the homeland.
Of course, “Act of Valor’s” mixing of real heroes and authentic weaponry (first look at a mini-nuclear sub) has tradeoffs. Extraction of the SEALS and a yacht takedown were scenes scripted, choreographed and shot enlisting live ammo from training exercises exploding in the background, which action fans likely would find exciting. However, enlisting non-professional actors – the active duty SEALS – achieves the goal of using “non-Rambo” personas, but, the non-mission interaction is rough around the edges at best.
“Act of Valor” has been criticized for its too perfect SEAL soldiers that draw ‘recruiting poster’ adjectives. You’ll have to decide whether the insights and action scenes only available with full armed forces cooperation offsets occasional reality-show type awkwardness.
This Means War
McG, who directed “We Are Marshall,” pits two CIA counterparts (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) vying for the same gal (Reese Witherspoon). Calling “This Means War” simply a romantic action comedy omits the director’s knack for poking fun at gender stereotypes. He previously updated the ultra-feminine “Charles Angels” so they maintained the makeup, heels (or boots) and hair and upped the ante on the feminist professional attitudes and conduct.
Here, he not so subtly takes similar shots at the dashing, debonair, unemotional masculine identity as it’s spy vs. spy for the hand of Witherspoon. First, gun blasting CIA stuff gets in the way, then, after a gentlemanly ‘may the best man win,’ Pine and Hardy enlist cohorts to sabotage each others would-be romantic moments.
Give McG props for accenting nearly non-stop comedy in this action/romantic pairing.
Coming this March
Tickets have already started selling for a midnight advance showing of “The Hunger Games,” potentially a book to screen adaptation that will fill the void left from the conclusion of “Harry Potter.”
The trilogy (“Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire,” and “Mockingjay”) sends readers into a post-apocalypse United States where each of the decaying North American twelve ‘districts’ by lottery select a boy and girl for participation in blend of “Spartacus” and “Survivor” on a nationally televised battle to the death. Sounds reminiscent of “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” and “Running Man,” but placing teens in the killing arena as sacrifices for past sins against the dictator has primitive tribal implications and possibly parental concerns for turning these young people into killers (do I sense symbolic mandatory military service overtones?)
“Hunger Games” doesn’t debut until March 23, but “John Carter” (March 9) relies on a character from Edgar Rice Burroughs who’s name is most associated with uncountable cinematic adaptations of “Tarzan,” for another potential new franchise. The “John Carter” series (originally beginning in print in 1912) is one of eleven futuristic novels that have been adapted mostly as comics. “John Carter” stars Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and William Dafoe.