Lone Survivor

Spoiler Alert! The title of this movie is Lone Survivor.

Despite that big giveaway, Lone Survivor is a pretty good war movie. Set in 2005 in Afghanistan, the film is based on true events.

Four Navy SEALs are sent to check out a village where a Taliban leader is believed to be hiding out. The frogmen (who do this mission on dry land) are Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Axe (Ben Foster).

After being ‘coptered in and dropped off, they scoot across a mountaintop and begin to monitor the village below. Their communications gear fails and they cannot make contact with their base commander (Eric Bana).

So they wait. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, up walks a group of locals with a herd of goats. They are unarmed. Do the SEALs kill them, tie them up or let them go on their way? Alas, they choose the last option, which soon leads to a confrontation with Taliban fighters.

The SEALs engage in a firefight that is fierce and brutal. The battle is on a hillside and the four Americans take some tough falls down the inclines. Being outnumbered by a large margin, all except Luttrell are eventually taken down. With help from a group of locals who are anti-Taliban he makes it out alive.

Lone Survivor is not a political film. It does not judge American involvement in the region. The men who fight are fighting for their county, yes, but also for one another.

I read Jon Krakauer’s excellent book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman last year. It described a mission in Afghanistan with bad planning, communication snafus and clumsy execution not unlike this one. The two tales do not inspire great faith in our military.

They do, however, generate appreciation for the men who fight. Stick around for the sequence at the end of the film which offers a salute to the real life fighting men.

2 Guns

2 Guns is good, but could’ve been better. It’s an action/comedy. That combination requires a delicate hand to keep both elements in balance. Sadly, as its title suggests, 2 Guns leans more heavily to the action side.

Moviegoers will buy tickets to 2 Guns for its stars, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Their interaction onscreen is fun and highly entertaining, but the film does not have enough of them together.

The hook is that Bobby (Washington) and Stig (Wahlberg) are a DEA agent and a US Navy operative, respectively, but neither knows that the other is working for the government. After an unconsummated drug deal in Mexico and a lucrative bank robbery in Texas, they figure a few things out. But there are big twists and surprises to come.

The story gets complicated, but don’t be too concerned about the plot and things that don’t get explained. All scores get settled in the end.

Bobby and Stig pursue, and are pursued. Main players are drug lord Papi (Edward James Olmos), interested third party Earl (Bill Paxton) and Navy agent Quince (James Marsden). Fellow DEA agent Deb (Paula Patton) is Bobby’s sometime squeeze, but their relationship has had its ups and downs.

2 Guns is directed by Iceland native Baltasar Kormakur, who also directed Wahlberg in last year’s Contraband.

While Wahlberg and Washington don’t have Newman/Redford type chemistry, they are fun to watch together. When two of our most talented and likeable stars are in an action/comedy movie together, they should be in the movie—together. The sum of the parts is greater when Bobby and Stig are in the same frame.

2 Guns is far from a “must-see,” but if you like Washington and Wahlberg, you’ll have fun with this one. Rated R. Violence, language, slight boobage.

Ted

Will you like “Ted?” Well, do you like “Family Guy?”

“Ted” is a rude, crude and hilarious movie with a heart. Mark Wahlberg is John, a 35-year-old underachiever who has a real, live teddy bear for a best friend. He also has a girlfriend, Lori, played by Mila Kunis, who wants him to ditch the bear and get on with his life.

When he was an 8-year-old, John got a teddy bear for Christmas. He made a wish that the bear could be real and…it happened! The bear became famous. Appeared on the Carson show! Now Ted has grown up with Wahlberg and is a sarcastic, pot-smoking has-been.

Kudos to all involved for making Ted appear so real. A combination of motion-capture and animation has rendered an on-screen Ted that is nearly flawless.

Ted is voiced by Seth MacFarlane, who also directed and co-wrote the movie. MacFarlane is the brains behind “Family Guy”—he’s the voice of Peter and Stewie Griffin and Brian the dog—and two other animated TV shows.

“Family Guy” fans will enjoy cast members Alex Borstein, the voice of Lois Griffin, and Patrick Warburton, who voices Joe Swanson, in their minor roles in “Ted.” (I wonder why Seth Green, who voices Chris Griffin, was not included.)

“Ted” has many cool cameos and a quick tribute to an early 80’s film comedy classic. Speaking of voices, Patrick Stewart provides the film’s opening and closing narration.

Trimming away some excess would’ve resulted in a tighter, better movie. Getting us to a happy ending made the film too long. But the funny lines and scenes are abundant, good taste is lacking and audiences will be howling at “Ted.”