New on DVD/Blu-Ray: “Act of Valor,” “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” “John Carter,” “Machine Gun Preacher,” and “Safe House”

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm

This week on DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming, and on demand:

Act of Valor The Navy SEALS approached the Bandito Brothers film-makers about telling their story, years before they became headline heroes by finding and killing Osama Bin Laden.  After spending time with the SEALS and learning about their extraordinary missions and their extraordinary devotion to their families, their country, and each other, it became clear that even the biggest stars in Hollywood could never do them justice.  And so they made “Act of Valor,” a thrilling action/adventure film starring active duty U.S. Navy SEALS re-enacting some of their most dangerous missions, with live ammunition.  Every person in uniform you see in the film is currently serving in the U.S. military.  More than once, shooting had to shut down so that the SEALS could get back to work.  The storyline is thin but the action scenes are powerful and the heroes are real.

John Carter It takes a while to get going and is about half an hour too long, but “John Carter” has some spectacular visuals and well-staged action scenes.  Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the Tarzan novels, also wrote the John Carter: Adventures on Mars series, about a Confederate Army veteran transported to Mars, who becomes involved in battles between two humanoid warring factions (one of which has, natch, a beautiful princess who does not want to marry the leader of the opposing side as her father is urging).  There are also some warlike but intelligent tall, green, egg-laying creatures with an extra pair of arms, and some mysterious robed messenger types with access to super-weapons.

Machine Gun Preacher Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) is a substance-abusing biker who became a Christian preacher and then took on African warlords to save children in Sudan.  He finds his skill with a gun is as important to that effort as his faith.

Safe House Denzel Washington is the vodka and Ryan Reynolds is the orange juice in this spy story with top-notch action, middle-notch story, and bottom-notch ending, with a “surprise” plot twist that is obvious from the first 10 minutes.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island Like its predecessor, Journey to the Center of the Earth, this is a well-paced and highly entertaining family film made with good humor, panache, and imagination.  Josh Hutcherson returns as Sean Anderson, a teenager whose last expedition was in search of his father.  Refreshingly, it does not take itself seriously.  Even more refreshingly, it takes the idea of adventure seriously, with a welcome reminder that the actual thrill of exploring beats even the most entertaining movie or game
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New on DVD/Blu-Ray

Interview: ‘Act of Valor’

Posted on February 24, 2012 at 11:24 am

Copyright Relativity 2012

 

 

Act of Valor” features active duty Navy SEALS re-enacting some of their most dangerous missions.  The situations are fictional, but the tactics and operations are real.  So is the ammunition.  Instead of blanks and squibs, the SEALS used live ammo, just as they do in their training exercises.  I was privileged to spend a day discussing the film with some of the people behind the film and an extraordinary group of business leaders and policy makers at an event conducted by Ideas Salon.  We discussed the film’s lessons on leadership, inspiration, communication, and integrity.

I also spoke to producer Max Leitman and co-director Scott Waugh of Bandito Brothers about making the film and what they learned from it.  We began with some reflections on the Ideas Salon experience.  “Relativity put it together because they thought it would spark some really great discussions,” Leitman said.  Waugh agreed. “It was great to really hear people pull different things out of the film that really sparked conversation. I feel like these guys are a true representation of leadership, and it was really interesting to really dissect how they operate, to relate that to the civilian side, the private sector, and corporations, and all those things. It was really fascinating for me, too.”  Leitman added, ” I think part of making a film is you work so hard on something — it’s sort of like having a baby; you put it out into world. It’s really interesting to see just how smart and fascinating people will react and see how your baby’s doing. That was just a thrill for us”

I told them that what fascinated me most in the film was the way the SEALS communicated with each other — the economy, precision, effectiveness, and sheer variety of the forms of communication.  “I think what we were really after in the film was the authenticity of how their com talk is and how they speak to each other,” Waugh said.  “We refused to dilute that process and have them speak in layman’s terms. So all of the acronyms are true and authentic. Sometimes the audience can get a little bit lost because they are not in the know, but in general they can follow it and they can appreciate that this is exactly how this guys communicate with each other, whether it’s through hand signals or through the radios.”  Leitman added, “I think that, moving away from the actual mode of communication, there’s a great discipline that comes from having that group of guys trust you to tell their story. I think that they are just so honest, so straightforward, and authentic, that we all feel like we’re better people and try to live up to the standard than we have seen acted out in the last 4 years, by them in their personal lives. To me, that’s just a great lesson for how everybody can continue to live their lives and be better people.”

I asked how the men who face the direst physical danger every day felt about being in front of the camera and had to repeat scenes over and over again.  Waugh answered.  “We were augmenting their training, so they were in that mode already. We purposely really tried to film in a way to stay out of their way, and they were very good just being themselves. They do their job and they do it with such precision and such repetition that with us in front of them, they was really no distraction for them, and they were just truly incredible men and how they operate with us around them was awesome.  You’ve got to remember when they train, they do evolutions even 15 to 20 evolutions of the same operation. That’s how they train, so we would get multiple takes on certain situations.  The toughest part of the shoot was working on water, because you’re dealing with a moving mass that you can’t control and we are out trying to really find and locate the submarines. To me, it was always the most fascinating complicating piece of business because we had our own air assets and boat assets and they did as well. All those moving parts, getting the GPS coordinates, the time and location the morning of was really complicated, and I think Max and I are both very proud of what we are able to accomplish, with such limited knowledge prior to shooting it.” Waugh talked about working with the Navy to make sure that the movie was authentic but not revealing enough to give away confidential information.  “They were so involved during the process that we never actually filmed anything that was not supposed to be filmed. So they did do a heavy scrub with every single frame that was shot afterwards. The greatest reward we had was after the scrub, nothing needed to be subtracted.”

“The most important thing we learned from the SEALs was the ability to adapt and change with your surroundings,” Waugh continued. “With us, with film-making, you usually have something set in your head before you get to the set. And when those things change on you, it usually can rattle you, and you think ‘That’s not the way I see it!’ In the field teams, they are constantly doing that, that’s because that’s the way life is. We feel that we’ve learnt so much from the field platoon that we’ve modeled Bandito Brothers and our film-making style around that approach.”  Leitman added, “We started our company about 5 years ago, and I would say the best way to start a company is to go into business with the SEALs. You just learn a lot from them. And it recalls what you said at the Ideas Salon when you were talking about the secondary and tertiary extract. That is really the take away from who those guys are, adapting and having a plan and then making it work.”

Waugh talked about what led the SEALs to approach them about making a film. “They wanted their story authentically told.  They have been misrepresented for so long that they really wanted the world just to know who they are and the sacrifice that involves being a Navy SEAL. Not only what they go through, but most importantly, what their wives and the children didn’t go through. They really wanted that told properly.  My hope is that regardless of what branch the military you’re in, that people who see this film will take away that there’s so many men and women that are down range sacrificing for our freedom. That shouldn’t be taken lightly, regardless of your political opinion. We should respect those and honor those that do. When we see them coming back home, we should not only thank them for their service, but we should also open up our arms to embrace them into getting back into the civilian world.”

 

 

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Behind the Scenes Directors Interview

Act of Valor

Posted on February 23, 2012 at 6:07 pm

The Navy SEALS approached the Bandito Brothers film-makers about telling their story, years before they became headline heroes by finding and killing Osama Bin Laden.  After spending time with the SEALS and learning about their extraordinary missions and their extraordinary devotion to their families, their country, and each other, it became clear that even the biggest stars in Hollywood could never do them justice.  And so they made “Act of Valor,” a thrilling action/adventure film starring active duty U.S. Navy SEALS re-enacting some of their most dangerous missions, with live ammunition.  Every person in uniform you see in the film is currently serving in the U.S. military.  More than once, shooting had to shut down so that the SEALS could get back to work.

The story is pure fiction but the situations are real and the filming includes footage of training missions with live ammunition.  According to the story, a CIA agent has been kidnapped and is being tortured.  Terrorists are trying to enter the United States to detonate suicide bombings that will murder thousands of civilians.  The SEALS get little notice and less background briefing and they have to save the day, using a combination of the most cutting edge technology in weapons and communication and the oldest and most basic forms of technology (hand-to-hand combat) and communication (hand signals and just knowing each other and the mission objectives).  Most of all, they rely on training, integrity, and trust.  What they don’t rely on is anything going as originally planned.  In one exciting chase, the bad guys are closing in and shooting at them with automatic weapons and one of the SEALs has been critically injured.  What is even more fascinating than the pulse-pounding action is the way the Seals keep adapting their escape plan and updating their team with remarkable economy and precision.  “This will be a hot extract,” they say crisply into the walkie-talkies as they return fire.  “Moving to tertiary extract,” they continue.  All may be chaos around them, but you get the feeling that they could keep going with another 20 thought-through options for pick-up if the first 19 can not work.  “Prepare for a bigger fight than you were expecting,” they are advised in one operation, but the SEALs are always ready.  One of them quotes the moving words of the Native American leader Tecumseh that concludes, “When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”

The guys (their names are not used for security reasons) are not actors, but that just adds to to sense that we are watching a documentary, albeit a documentary that sometimes plays like a first-person shooter game.  When we see the SEALs with their families and with each other, it is clear that there is not an actor in the world who could convey the humility and honor that is fundamental to their natures.

The storyline is thin and generic but there is plenty of drama in the operation of the missions, each like a movie of its own and well staged to make us feel at the center of the action.  Country greats like Trace Adkins, Wynonna Judd, Sugarland, and Lady Antebellum provide a stirring soundtrack.  We see operations on land, sea, and in the air.  There are fights and shoot-outs but one of the most mesmerizing scenes is all talk as the master interrogator shows the master criminal just enough respect to keep him cooperating, making clear how much power he has over the other man’s life to make that cooperation meaningful.  “I’d rather bring a gun to a knife fight than be interrogated by him,” one of the Seals says proudly.  The support of their families and, at least in one case, a family history of sacrifice creates a clarity of priorities that creates a context for excellence.  In a world where ambiguity and partisanship make it hard to find heroes, the biggest thrills in this film come not from the shoot-outs but from seeing real-life commitment, courage, and what valor truly means.

 

(more…)

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Action/Adventure Based on a true story War

‘Act of Valor’s’ Inspiring Quotation from Tecumseh

Posted on February 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm

The stirring words of the great Native American leader Tecumseh are movingly read in this week’s release featuring active duty Navy Seals.  Here they are:

So live your life so the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their views, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a stranger if in a lonely place. Show respect to all people, but grovel to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself. Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs them of their visions. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

 

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Behind the Scenes
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