American Sniper

January 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner
Directed by: Clint Eastwood (“Gran Torino”)
Written by: Jason Hall (“Paranoia”)

After passing through the hands of David O. Russell and Steven Spielberg, the film based on the life of the deadliest sniper in American military history, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), landed in the lap of director Clint Eastwood. Though it may not turn out to be a classic war film, “American Sniper” is, at the very least, a return to form for a director in the twilight of his career.

“American Sniper” tells the story of Kyle’s four tours in Iraq. After leaving his newlywed wife Kaya (Sienna Miller) at home in the U.S., Kyle reaches Iraq with a deadly accurate shot and a strong desire to serve his country. Dubbed “Legend,” Kyle must fight to stay alive in an increasingly dangerous landscape with a target on his back, all while struggling with emotional issues stemming from his role as a SEAL.

After achieving three acting nominations in consecutive years, Cooper has become somewhat of a new Academy darling. Sporting a near perfect Texas accent, Cooper is good as Kyle, though his Oscar nomination feels ever so slightly miscalculated, especially considering who beat him out. Still, the film falls almost exclusively on the shoulders of Cooper, who handles the burden with a steady, albeit unflashy performance.

Though it isn’t exactly a conventional war film, “American Sniper” certainly dials up the tension and its more intense action sequences are taut and well executed. In a landscape that isn’t exactly full of modern war stories, this look into the warfare of Iraq is refreshing and well done. Unfortunately, the scope of the screenplay gets in the way of it being any more than a surface look at these conflicts. Most notably, screenwriter Jason Hall spends a large chunk of the film focused on an enemy and former Olympic sniper named Mustafa. By turning Mustafa into an invincible generic villain, Hall devotes far too much valuable screen time to what feels like an entirely arbitrary antagonist when there are far more interesting things at play.

The best moments of “American Sniper” come when symptoms of PTSD and the DNA of a military man who can’t help but return for multiple tours are explored and analyzed. Even further, Miller is quite strong as Kyle’s wife who becomes increasingly troubled having to raise a family on her own, watching her husband risk his life time after time. In the end, the screenplay, performances and direction excel when the family dynamics are strained, yet Eastwood treats these moments as a B storyline and whiffs on a chance to do something truly unique.

It may not rise to the levels of “Zero Dark Thirty” when it comes to modern warfare tension, but “American Sniper” is a worthwhile, if not unspectacular entry to the war movie genre. Cooper is the clear star, but Eastwood is able to coax enough tense moments out of a relatively mediocre script to make the film worth the time of anyone looking for a solid rush in the slow month of January.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

August 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans
Directed by: Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy”)
Written by: Stuart Beattie (“Australia”), David Elliot (“Four Brothers”), and Paul Lovett (“Four Brothers”)

While video-game adaptations for movies are still finding their way to the big screen, Hollywood has deemed it necessary to also turn more toy lines into feature films. As if “Transformers” wasn’t enough of an unnecessary ploy, welcome “G.I. Joe” to the fray.

Call it pure, mindless summer fun for the escapist in all of us, but where the movie lacks severely is in a fleshed-out narrative and memorable special effects. Still, at least “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” stays true to its original toy soldiers by making every one of its characters is as synthetic as the Hasbro toy they spawned from.

In the film, a top-secret Special Forces brigade known as G.I. Joe (short for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity) is sent on a mission to find a massively destructive weapon that has fallen into the hands of the mysterious Cobra organization.

Channing Tatum (“Fighting”) stars as Duke, who along with his friend Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) become the newest members of the elite military group. Duke jumps on board since he is familiar with the femme fatale known as the Baroness (Sienna Miller) who is part of the evil plot to destroy the world.

For fans who collected the action figures or watched the 80s cartoon, there are plenty more characters carrying high-tech weapons that will probably transport you back to a time when melting things with a magnifying glass was considered the highlight of the weekend. But unless you know the entire mythology of the series, there’s really no reason to start learning about it now.

This isn’t rocket science we’re dealing with here. Basically, all anyone needs to know about “G.I. Joe” is that there are good guys and bad guys and a whole lot of fighting that needs to happen before the credits roll. This includes a tedious scene where about 100 vehicles are destroyed for what seems to be an eternity. There are also a couple of head-to-head ninja sequences between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) that aren’t half bad.

Overall, “G.I. Joe” is one big cartoon of a movie. Depending on how invested you are in the franchise will make or break this visceral action-pack adventure for you.