Film Review “The Finest Hours”

Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Holliday Grainger
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hr 57 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…somewhere on the Walt Disney lot is a small office in which sits a little man not unlike Burgess Meredith in the “Time Enough At Last” episode of “The Twilight Zone” who does nothing but reads all day, looking for stories, new and old, about amazing events that leave the reader feeling good. It took him six decades but he finally found the story behind “The Finest Hours.”

It’s a cold day in February 1952 as the residents of the small town of Chatham, Massachusetts prepare for a storm. Among the locals is phone operator Vivian (Grainger) and her boyfriend Bernie Webber (Pine), who is stationed at the local US Coast Guard station. The townspeople are a little moody as they recently observed the one year anniversary of a horrible boating accident which killed many. Due to the weather conditions, the Coast Guard was not able to perform a rescue, and some in town still hold a grudge. It is when a similar incident arises, and Webber and his men are sent out into the storm, that old memories prove they do not die easily.

Based on a true story, “The Finest Hours” tells the tale of the four enlisted men who risked their lives in an attempt to bring back thirty-two survivors from a horrible accident in which their actual vessel broke in half. Led by Pine and Ben Foster, the brave military men are a strong and determined lot. Self-reminded of their failure the year before, the men go above and beyond to help. On the ship itself, the men are a motley crew of seasoned vets and young rookies. Let by Affleck’s chief mechanic, some are willing to listen while others distrust him. Then there is the ship’s cook who keeps things light by repeatedly singing “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” from “Guys and Dolls!”

Technically the film is top notch. The special effects are well done and the various period pieces take you back to a time in life when you couldn’t just pick up your cell phone and check in with others. Do save your money and don’t see “The Finest Hours” in 3D. This may very well be the “least” 3D movie of any 3D movie I’ve ever seen. You’d be better served with an umbrella.

Film Review “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale and Pablo Schreiber
Directed by: Michael Bay
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hrs 24 mins

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

There is a great sketch by Monty Python called “The Bookshop” where a man tries to buy books by authors with familiar names. But instead of Charles Dickens, he’s looking for Charles Dikkens (“Dickens with two k’s, the well-known Dutch author”). This sketch immediately came to mind as I watched “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” which is credited as being directed by “Transformers” helmer Michael Bay. Surely, I thought, it must be Michael Baye (the well-known Dutch filmmaker).

Libya. Since the death of Dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the country has been in turmoil. Rival groups infiltrated and raided the various weapons warehouses that Gaddafi had well stocked and the country has become the 21st Century version of the Wild West. In the town of Benghazi there is a compound that holds 26 members of the C.I.A. They put their safety in the hands of a small group of men, contracted by the US government. Things start going crazy when it’s learned that the US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, will be visiting and staying at a nearby compound. The date is September 11, 2012.

Inspired by, and based on the stories of, several of the contractors that endured 13 hours of hell, “13 Hours” ranks with “Platoon” as a true depiction of what war really is. As the film begins we meet our heroes: Jack Silva (Krasinski), a real estate agent back for a much needed payday; Tyrone “Rone” Woods (Dale), a grizzled veteran of over a dozen missions hoping to make a better life for himself and Mark “Oz” Geist (Max Martini), a hulking man with a kind heart. With their fellow “brothers” they are prepared for anything and everything. Nothing is easy in Libya. Not going for a ride or taking a short walk. They share their duties with members of 17 Feb, an Islamist group that took up weapons after the fall of Gaddafi in hopes of saving their country. However, in a country where automatic weapons and rocket launchers have replaced vegetables at the outdoor market it’s hard to tell who your friend is and who your enemy is. Especially when your “friends” are “making $28.00 a day and have to bring their own bullets.”

Hats off to the cast. They were instructed by either their real-life counterparts or those that knew them and, like Bradley Cooper’s Chris Kyle in “American Sniper” or Mark Wahlberg’s Marcus Lutrell in “Lone Survivor,” they strive for realism in honoring the men they are playing. In fact one of the men, Glen “Bub” Doherty, was close friends with Brandon Webb, the sniper who trained both Kyle and Lutrell. There are no phony heroics here. War is scary as hell and the cast makes sure that mask of horror is front and center.

While the camaraderie of the men is the message of the film, it is the amazing 13-hour battle which is what you will remember. Each round of fighting, escalating and easing up, only to get steadily worse as the night goes on, is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat moment. And kudos to director Bay for not making this a typical “Michael Bay” film. There are no shots of men walking in slow motion through a cloud or fog. In fact, there is very little use of slow motion here at all. Only when he cribs the “money shot” from “Pearl Harbor”, following a mortar shell from the sky and all the way down until it hits its target, does he seem to be going for a little flash. Bay also leaves out a lot of the unnecessary politics that still surround this event. If there is fault to be assigned, there is plenty to go around, and Bay allows you to make up your own mind as to who to point your finger at.


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3D Blu-ray Review “History of the World in Two Hours”

Original Aired on: The History Channel
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed by: A&E Home Video
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Runing Time: 88 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t know what it is about programs on The History Channel but I am total sucker. Especially about the cool topic like the creation of our world! And especially in 3D! This is not the first time The History Channel has released their specials in 3D, there was “WWII in 3D”, which was released earlier this year. Overall, I was entertained and also learned a little bit as well.

This special focused on everything about our world from the formation of the earth to the creation of life to the growth of civilization. The CGI is very impressive and works really well with the 3D. The visual effects really popped out and really sold the special for me.  I just wish that this wasn’t limited to two hours and lasted longer as a series. Though for what it is it definitely flies through 14 billion years of history quite well and still manages to keep your interest spiked.

There are no special features included on this release, so that is a little disappointing overall but they have the two hours so packed with information and entertainment, I barely realized. The only thing about this film that made me laugh is that it is called “History of the World in Two Hours” but only runs 88 minutes. But of course, it had to be adjusted for commercials on TV.  If anyone related to The History Channel reads this, please produce more specials in 3D, I have really enjoyed them thus far. It is a great way to take learning to the third dimension. In fact, I would actually love to see a full series in 3D like “The Universe”.