Movie Review: 13 Hours


13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Last Sunday my wife and I caught the matinee performance of 13 Hours. As a war movie buff it reminded me of Black Hawk Down. It shares a lot of the same themes and is action packed. Although my wife and I liked the movie, it is not without its detractors. Washington Post columnist Ann Hornaday complains that the movie is political and then spends most of her movie review contrasting it with the recent Iran prisoner swap. I guess she misses the point that when the consulate is under attack, political negotiations like the Iran prisoner swap are no longer an option. When the security guards ran away during the firefight at the consulate, you are officially in the soldier’s world and that is what the movie is about.  The writers at Hot Air were not impressed with her “political” argument either. Surprisingly I found the movie to be less political than I expected. If the movie included a cameo of either the President or the Secretary of State asleep during the battle or Susan Rice on the talk shows blaming a movie for the consulate attack, it would have strayed from the script and become political. Instead it focused on the courage of six men to save the Ambassador and his staff despite a lack of State Department and military support.


Is the USA Looking for a Few Good Men in the NSA?

Every time I hear a official explain the NSA surveillance program I am reminded of the climatic scene in the movie, “A Few Good Men”. In this scene Kaffee is pressing Colonel Jessup as to whether he ordered his men to conduct an illegal training exercise, a “Code Red”, that resulted in the death of a marine, Santiago.

Col. Jessep: I’ll answer the question!

[to Kaffee]

Col. Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to.

Col. Jessep: *You want answers?*

Kaffee: *I want the truth!*

Col. Jessep: *You can’t handle the truth!*


Col. Jessep: Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Tradecraft and 9,000 Year Old Beers

Last Saturday my wife and I watched Zero Dark Thirty. My wife hated it because of the long stretches of black screens. Since I knew the plot I found myself getting bored while anticipating the next scene. Although the acting and the script was well written, we did not get caught up in the movie. I ended up giving it three stars on Netflix. The one thing that fascinated me was the use of the word, tradecraft. In honor of the movie I will see how many posts I can write in a row that using the word tradecraft.

First off is a fun article on ancient brewing. Business Insider has a great slide show on an event, Here’s What 9,000-Year-Old Beers Taste Like, where the folks re-created ancient brews at The Bell House thanks to the World Science Festival. This is a great example of excellence in the brewing tradecraft. If you can use a little bit of forensic science to come up with palatable clone of the 9,000 year old brew, you are a darn good brewer. The Midas Touch beer was the most appealing of the ancient brews to me.

Crawfish Étouffée and Black Snake Moan

Several years ago I worked on a bayou that drained into the Gulf of Mexico. We were about ten miles from the nearest town so we were relegated to cafeteria food most of the time. So it was pretty exciting when a restaurant opened only a couple of miles away. It looked like the typical road side cafe along a lightly traveled country road. It had picnic tables out front and the inside was authentically rustic. I seem to remember that it had checkered table cloths. The place was run by a Cajun couple. The wife worked in the kitchen and the husband worked the tables. They were just another couple trying to make a buck in the restaurant business. It was at this humble restaurant that I ate the best crawfish Étouffée. It had the look, the smell, and the taste of the classic Gulf Coast dish. It was cheap, too!

The restaurant did not stay open for long. I heard that the local police were called in to settle a domestic dispute. The wife pulled out a shot gun on the husband during the dinner service. I do not know what triggered the dispute or whether she shot him but we never ate in the restaurant again.

Recently I watched the movie, Black Snake Moan. From the trailer I thought the movie was going to be another comedy set in the South. It is not a comedy but I was not disappointed. The plot is well written because of the ease it draw you into the story without resorting to stereotypes. The South does have its fair share of stereotypes so it took some discipline on the part of the writer to steer away the obvious plot hooks. The characters start out being fairly obvious stereotypes of the South. Early on in the movie I found myself wanting to really like or dislike certain characters but the plot did not cooperate with my plans. By the end of the movie I found these same characters to be complex individuals with serious personal problems they could not solve alone. Probably the most fascinating aspect about this movie is that it explores many of the same issues that Christianity and marriage find so important. We have greater freedom by being restrained by those we love. Like the movie it is not complete freedom but we are a lot better off than going it alone. I have a qualified recommendation for the movie since it has a lot of sex. However, the movie was entertaining and it made me think. It reminded me about the good and the bad in the people I have known from the South like the couple that served me the Étouffée I liked so much. It is our willingness to remain connected to each other that allows us to handle adversity.

William James

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices.”

William James

This quote reminded me of a bonus feature that came with the DVD for “Children of Men” called “The Possibility of Hope”. The movie was a good sci-fi movie if you did not think too much about how humans had stopped reproducing. It had a good script and acting but some of the cinematography was amazing. The car scene with the five people made it seem like you were seated in the center of the car with them.

The bonus feature was an interview of several intellectuals on the ideas that led to the movie. They had drawn some interesting and pessimistic conclusions about where the world is going. When I first started listening to what the were saying I thought it sounded like intellectual babble. I am not sure who they were talking to but I suspected they enjoyed the sound of their voice most of all. They finally lost me when they started talking about tropical weather for Iceland and the impact of gated communities on society. Fortunately you can use this babble to make an interesting movie if you have a good director, actors, and script writer.

Live Earth concert/Last King of Scotland

I watched a bit of the Live Earth concert. There were several bands I hand never seen live. When my son got bored with the music we put in the DVD, “Last King of Scotland”. Last King of Scotland is a great movie but you should not watch it with young children. Forrest Whitaker deserved the Oscar nomination.

I did not see how this concert would help or hinder global warming. A worldwide concert is a novelty. It was nice to see Al Gore looking fit and trim. Recently some pundits had advocated that Al should run for office so that he would get to a healthier weight. 😉

Movie Reviews: Departed and Infamous

Departed DVD

This last weekend I was suffering with some flu like symptoms so we took the opportunity to catch up on some current movies, Departed and Infamous. My preconceptions about both movies kept me from being excited about seeing either movie. Departed looked like just another violent, gangster movie with a wonderful cast. Infamous looked like a sequel.

The first movie we saw was Departed and I was pleasantly surprised. It was well written with an intricate plot and fascinating characters. I always find that good movies have at least one character who steals your attention whenever they get on screen. This movie had several characters who grabbed your attention whenever they appeared. I won’t go into the details of the movie but the story had plenty of unexpected twists and it did not end up the way I thought it would. This is a film worthy of an Oscar.

Infamous DVD

Infamous is a movie I was real reluctant to watch. I thought the first Capote movie was good but it was not a movie I had a desire to watch a second time. My expectations were pretty low for this movie. Boy, did this movie surprise me!

Like the movie Departed, this movie was loaded with fascinating caricatures and a well-written script. The biggest and brightest caricature is Capote. Although Capote is more overtly homosexual in this movie than in the previous Capote movie, I think his homosexuality helps make the Capote character more interesting and engaging. One of the great scenes is when this flamboyant gay tries to interview people on the street in this stark, conservative Kansas town about a murder they do not want to talk about. It looks like Capote is doomed to failure. Yet despite the town’s aversion to Capote’s homosexuality, Capote was very adept at finding ways to make people comfortable with talking to him. The little vignettes showing how how Capote won the confidence of the people in the town are truly fascinating and helps explain how he was subsequently able to gain the confidence of the killers. Although the In Cold Blood plot was well trodden by others, the writing and caricatures in Infamous makes this movie different and maybe more entertaining. It’s a good movie.

Review of Diary of a Mad Black Woman

I ended up watching this movie twice. It was cute, funny, and somewhat unpredictable. Tyler Perry is a blast as he plays Madea, Uncle Joe, and Brian. The director did a great job balancing the crazy antics of Madea with the more serious side of the movie, a rich portrayal of forgivenesss overcoming the desire for revenge and the fear of being hurt again. This is a good story and one worth telling. As good as Tyler Perry was it was the skill of the rest of the cast that made the movie work for me. I like a good story and they told me a good story. Tyler’s antics with Madea and Uncle Joe made a good story sparkle just a little bit more. The combination of good acting, directing, and a Christian theme encourages me to recommend the movie. I give the movie an A. The professional reviews listed at Yahoo! gave it a C while the movie goers gave it a B+.