The Films of 2020: The Outpost (dir by Rod Lurie)

The Outpost, which is currently streaming on Netflix and which deserves far more attention than it’s been given, is a film that left me breathless.  Seriously, as the film came to its conclusion, I realized that I was so emotionally overwhelmed by what I had just seen that I actually had to stop for a few minutes and catch my breath.  Once I was breathing again, I started to cry.  I cried all the way through the end credits.  That’s the sign of a powerful film.

Based on a true story, The Outpost takes place in 2009.  PRT Kamdesh is an American military outpost in Northern Afghanistan.  The post is located in a valley.  The mountains, which rise high up into the sky, are not only beautiful but they also provide the perfect cover for the Taliban.  The outpost is attacked on a nearly daily basis.  At the start of the film, we’re told that one military strategist said that the base should have been named after George Custer because it was impossible to defend and that, should a big attack ever truly come, all 53 of the man on the base would essentially be sitting ducks.

The Outpost follows those 53 men as they go about their daily lives on the base.  Commanders die and are replaced.  The soldiers try to hold onto their sanity, even though they know that the “big attack” is inevitable.  Though more than a few of the men have families back home, they try not to think about them.  They can’t risk the distractions.  Even the act of adopting a dog is seen as being a potentially dangerous move.  The humor is dark, to the extent that the base’s theme song is “Everybody Dies.”  While dealing with daily attacks, the base’s commanders try to win the support of the local villagers.  One of the local elders asks if the Americans are the same invaders who have been in Afghanistan for the last 40 years.  “No,” the flummoxed commander tries to explain, “those were the Russians.”  It quickly becomes apparent that the soldiers and the villagers have at least one thing in common: no one is quite sure why the Americans are there or if they’ll ever able to leave.  Orders are sent down by faceless generals and the men of PRT Kamdesh wait for the attacks that they all know are coming,

When the attack does come, it leads to one of the most visceral battle scenes that I’ve ever seen.  There’s nothing glamorous about the way that The Outpost portrays war.  Instead, it’s a confusing, loud, and terrifying nightmare.  The Outpost establishes early on that anyone can die, an important lesson when you consider how many action movies have been made about heroes who are mythically impervious to even the slightest of injuries.

For roughly the final hour of the film, The Outpost puts us into the middle of the Battle of Kamdesh.  The film pays tribute to the soldiers who fought in the battle, showcasing their bravery and the quick thinking that kept the battle from being even more of a disaster than it was.  At the same time, it also reminds us that war is not fun and that the scars of combat are not just physical.  When a soldier breaks down into tears while trying to talk about the battle, the film treats his feelings with the respect that they deserve.  It’s been said that few people are as anti-war as the people who have actually experienced combat and The Outpost shows us why that is.

The Outpost is an important film.  It’s especially important now that we have a new president and the national media is probably going to go back to ignoring whatever happens in Afghanistan for at least the next four years.  For far too many people, it’s become the forgotten war, even though it’s still ongoing.  The Outpost is a film that reminds us that no war and no soldier should ever be forgotten.

I’ve been pretty critical of director Rod Lurie in the past but, with The Outpost, he’s given us one of the best films of 2020.

A Quick Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (dir by Peter Jackson)


It seems kind of weird to do a quick review for a 144 minutes film that not only serves as the end of one epic trilogy but also as a prequel for yet another epic trilogy.

Well, so be it.  I hate to admit it but I really don’t have that much to say about The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies beyond the fact that I saw it on the day after Christmas, I enjoyed it, and I thought Aidan Turner was really hot.  It’s not a perfect film but then again, The Hobbit has never been a perfect trilogy.  As opposed to the Lord of the Ring films, The Hobbit told a story that could have easily been told in two films.  As a result, whenever you watch one of The Hobbit films, you’re aware of all of the filler that was included just to justify doing three films.

But so what?  The Hobbit films are fun.  Despite the cynical economic reasons behind turning The Hobbit into a trilogy, director Peter Jackson’s love for the material always came through.  In the title role, Martin Freeman was always likable.  Ian McKellan and Christopher Lee made for properly enigmatic wizards.  Though apparently his inclusion caused some controversy among purists, it was nice to Orlando Bloom as Legolas.  I also liked Evangeline Lilly’s elf character, even if everyone else seemed to dislike her and her love story with Aidan Turner.  And then there was Benedict Cumberbatch providing a perfectly evil and self-satisfied voice for Smaug.

I have to admit that, with the exception of Aidan Turner, I was never a big fan of the dwarves.  They were all so surly and bad-tempered and it didn’t take me too long to get tired of Richard Armitage showing up as Thorin and acting like a jerk.  However, in the final part of the trilogy, Armitage’s surly performance started to make sense.  As Thorin grew more and more paranoid, I saw that The Hobbit was actually using both the character and Armitage’s performance to make a much larger point.  Power corrupts and most conflicts are ultimately all about money and property.  It was a good message.

When the Battle of the Five Armies started, I was shocked to discover how little I remembered about the previous two Hobbit films.  It took me a while to get caught up on who everyone was and why they were all fighting over that mountain.  As opposed to the LoTR films, it’s not always easy to get emotionally invested in The Hobbit films.  But, Jackson is a good director and he’s a good storyteller and, even though it took me a while to get caught up, I was still often enthralled with what I was watching on screen.  The images were so stunning and the battle scenes were so spectacularly done that I could handle being occasionally confused.

Battle of the Five Armies is a fitting end for the Hobbit trilogy.  It’s not a perfect film but it is exciting and fun and that’s really all that matters.  At the end of it, the audience in the theater applauded, not just for the film but in recognition of everything that Peter Jackson has given us over the past 14 years.

It was a good way to spend the day after Christmas.

Trailer: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Teaser)



It hasn’t been received as well as Jackson’s own The Lord of The Rings trilogy, but The Hobbit did hit it’s stride with 2013’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. People still haven’t bought into Jackson’s decision to film the prequel trilogy in the 48-frame rate format which gives the films an ultra-definition look that anyone with an HDTV will recognize when watching with the anti-judder effect on.

Yet, this is The Hobbit and any flaws and ill-timed decisions made still hasn’t diminished it’s hold on those who have read the book and on those who were pulled into the cinematic world adapted by Jackson. We now see the final film in the Middle-Earth cinematic universe about to come down on audiences this 2014 Holiday. This weekend at the Comic-Con saw the first teaser trailer air at Hall H to the delight of those in attendance.

Warner Brothers has seen fit to release a shorter version of the teaser shown at Hall H, but it still shows that all the set-up and slog through the first film will have an epic pay-off with the final leg of this trilogy: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Trailer: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Sneak Peek)

The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug

“The lord of silver fountains,

The King of carven stone,

The King beneath the mountain

Shall come into his own!

And the bells shall ring in gladness

At the Mountain-king’s return,

But all shall fail in sadness

And the lake shall shine and burn.”

Today, over in NYC a special fan event for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was held which introduced a new one-sheet poster (look above), but also premiere a 3-minute sneak peek trailer to the second entry in The Hobbit Trilogy.

To say that this extended trailer is a vast improvement to all the previous teasers and official trailers for this second film in the prequel set would be an understatement. It still shows the film as being much more darker in tone than the book source it’s being adapted from, but it definitely shows a film that looks and feels much more put together than the first film (still just an assumption, but I have hopes I’ll be correct).

We see more of Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman who looks to fit in rather well instead of looking “too modern” as some feared he would look. I like how the trailer uses the poem, “The King Beneath the Mountains”, but in an altered form to make it sound like it was a prophecy. I know purist will probably rail and scream to anyone who will listen that this wasn’t how Tolkien wrote the poem. If they haven’t figured out by now that these film adaptations have been altering the written work to better fit the story then what have they been watching over the past decade.

I, for one, can’t wait for this middle film in the trilogy to finally come out and come out it shall on December 13, 2013. I saw the first film in every format and watch it in all format I shall for this one as well.

Trailer: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2nd Official)

It just a littleunder 3 months before Peter Jackson takes us back to Middle-Earth with the first of three films that will make up The Hobbit trilogy.

There’s not much else to say other than this latest trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journeyjust continues to whet the appetite for all things Middle-Earth. It’s much more action-packed with some nice new scenes instead of just rehashing what was in the original teaser trailer from year ago.

Enough words. Just watch the trailer below and decide for yourself whether another trip to Middle-Earth (before all the War of the Ring brouhaha of the first trilogy) is worth your monies.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey premieres worldwide on December 14, 2012.

Trailer: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

While Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is the most anticipated summer blockbuster for this upcoming 2012 then it would be safe to say that the most anticipated film for 2012 for some would be Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

This is a film that has been years in the making and even more years in development hell as the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit, was entangled through many different studios. Once those entanglements were finally resolved and the film set to be put into production the film suffered more setbacks as budget and script rewrites kept things from starting. The original filmmaker picked to helm this two-part prequel, Guillermo Del Toro, had to back out after years of delays though he still remains as producer and his ideas and conceptual art and design has become the foundation for the film.

The film finally got the greenlight to start filming once Peter Jackson stopped searching for Del Toro’s replacement and took on the role as director once again. While Del Toro was a great choice I think most fans of the original trilogy were glad that Jackson decided to just take up the director’s chair once more. Who else knew the world of Middle-Earth on film better than the man who made what was called the unfilmable novel into the new millenium’s iconic film trilogy.

Like the production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson and his geniuses at WETA have been pretty good with showing fans progress made on the films through video blogs released by Jackson himself. With just a year left to go before part one of this two-part prequel premieres we finally have the first official teaser trailer to the film and I must say that it’s great. Even from just snippets shown in the teaser one could see some of Del Toro’s more darker concepts and influence in the film’s look and tone. But then some of it also comes from Jackson himself whose early background as a filmmaker was all about dark, macabre subjects and themes.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set for a December 14, 2012 release.

Scenes I Love: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Yesterday, I had chosen my favorite scene from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Today, I just finished re-watching the sequel to that film (though I think of it more as the second act of a 12-hour film), The Two Towers. From this second act I chose the one of the three climactic sequences in the film: Gandalf the White’s arrival and subsequent charge of the Rohirrim to break the siege of Helm’s Deep.

This second act had so many excellent scenes. From the last march of the Ents as they go to war against Isengard, to Gandalf’s descent and fight against the Balrog right up to the hour-long battle for Helm’s Deep. In the end, it was the charge by Gandalf, Eomer and the Rohirrim which sealed the deal for me. It wasn’t just the dramatic entrance of these characters to save their friends, but Howard Shore’s score which really added to the scene.

I love how just as the Rohirrim charge was about to smash into the front ranks of the Uruk-Hai spearmen the sun behind the charge peaked above the top of the incline and blinded the defenders at the bottom. For someone who has studied military tactics and maneuvers in battle this was a textbook use of the sun at a charging forces back to blind and confuse the enemy. Many who saw this film probably just saw it as just part of the scene, but not I. This is the major reason why this scene was my favorite in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Scenes I Love: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

“I would have would have followed you, my brother… my captain… my king.” – Boromir, Captain and High Warden of the White Tower

It’s been five days since the season finale of the first season of Game of Thrones and the withdrawal symptoms are definitely starting to kick in. Season two of this fabolous series won’t be back for at least ten months. To help alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms I decided to go on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy marathon all weekend. Tonight will be The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition). It’s from this first leg of the trilogy that I choose today’s scene that I love.

The scene I have chosen is very close to the end of the film and it’s a scene between Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn and Sean Bean’s Boromir. It’s soon after the attack of Saruman’s Uruk-Hai on the group. Boromir valiantly tries to protect and save Merry and Pippin from the Lurtz and his band of Uruk-Hai. It’s the scene which arrives after that really hits home for me just how great Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the first part of Tolkien’s massive tome.

This quiet and heartbreaking scene between Aragorn and Boromir cements Viggo’s performance as the reluctant hero moving towards embracing his legacy and destiny while at the same adding complexities to Sean Bean’s performance as Boromir being a flawed and tragic hero in his own right. It is a scene that will cause more than just a few tears to be shed.