R. Lee Ermey

Mississippi Burning

Year: 1988
Directed By: Alan Parker
Written By: Chris Gerolmo

RYAN’S REVIEW

The best movies are the ones that teach us something.  The ones that get into our core and change the very fiber of our being for the rest of time. This movie did that for me. It taught me an invaluable lesson about racism that I will never forget. The message this movie sends is one that has been preached by many films but it is one I only needed once. It has soured my opinion some to other movies along the same lines but I hope each and every one of them did for others what this one did for me.  The world was an uglier place in 1964. It’s an unfortunate reality that the world is still that ugly 50 years later, but I hope with every lesson a film like this delivers that we will be that much closer to what the world can be.

There is plenty of ugliness in this world but I think racism would just about give anything a run for its money at being the worst.  To have hate in your heart for another person based on nothing more than their skin color is despicable.  To judge a person you do not know for preconceived notions that are unfounded is awful.  Worst of all is being so blinded by hate that you physically and emotionally hurt other people to perpetuate some ridiculous idea created by hateful and evil people.  It just blows, in every way possible.  Nothing makes me sicker than to see this ugliness in the world.  I do not judge people for what they were raised to believe but I believe we should all try to be better.  When you settle for the norm or go on with a mentality you know to be wrong you aren’t being better but simply bringing us all down by being worse. The world will never change unless we change ourselves but we can’t do it alone.  It’s a sad reality that as long as ignorance is still prevalent in our society that we will have to endure unnecessary hatred and judgment.

I mentioned that this movie has soured me on others along the same lines and I’d like to clarify that statement.  I just don’t like seeing racism, and I prefer not to see it because I find it ugly.  It’s no different than seeing rape or adultery in a movie.  Some things will just turn me off of a film because I don’t care to see it.  With racism I have learned my lesson about it and I don’t care to pile on by choosing to watch more of the ugliness.  I hope they never stop being made because each and every one has the opportunity to teach someone and that’s great.  I just don’t need that lesson anymore and choose to avoid seeing those films for the most part.  This movie is enough for me but I still find this one hard to watch again.  It’s a great movie all around but I don’t think it is fun to watch.  The Klansmen make me sick to my stomach and though it is awesome to see them get what is coming to them the damage they had already done can’t go unnoticed.  I wish this world hadn’t been this way and wasn’t so similar today in various ways but it’s an unfortunate reality we have to live with.  It’s incredibly difficult to change someone’s opinion about anything once they have set their mind to it.  I am thankful for the people out there who want to fight the battle but personally I think you are just fighting.  It’s like the war on drugs, it’s unwinnable.  You can no more make someone feel a way they don’t than you can stop them from doing something they want to do.  You can preach and punish all you want but at the end of the day haters are gonna hate and hopheads are gonna get high.

I think with this movie that the lesson I have learned from it is more important than the movie itself.  It’s a very good film that is based on real events.  There are the Hollywood elements added in as they are in all movies based on true stories but the messages the film sends are clear and authentic. Gene Hackman is incredible and should have won the Oscar but lost to Dustin Hoffman for Rainman. Frances McDormand is great in everything she does and I’m a big fan of Willem Dafoe.  I think all the KKK members were perfectly cast, R. Lee Ermey and Michael Rooker fit in accordingly.  There is also a young Eddie Winslow in the movie playing an inspiring part.  That is all I want to say about the film itself though.  I think it is a terrific film and I appreciate what it taught me but I believe what it taught me was more important than the film itself.

This movie is worth your time.  If you watch this movie and don’t feel sympathy in your heart there is something wrong with you.  There is a valuable lesson to be had from this movie and if you manage to not get it you need to see more.  If you can’t feel how awful the content of this movie is then you need to open your mind and see it again.  We can all be better as people and as individuals.  This is one of the movies that taught me to be a better person and a stronger individual.  I hope you watch it and get as much out of it as I do.  We can’t change the world but we can change ourselves and we can raise children to be smarter than our parents were and we are.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is incredibly moving. A movie that makes you want to stand up for something, too. It is a really hard movie to watch. If you are a black person or a white person, it’s hard to watch. There is a huge lesson to be learned about this movie, about people and natural born rights. I wasn’t alive during this time and I am so thankful for that, because my whole motto in life is “Live and Let Live.” I don’t understand why people had and have hatred for other people for no reason at all. It burdens my heart. This movie tells an amazing story and it is worth watching for sure.

mississippi_burning

I am really impressed with this poster. I don’t think it effectively draws in curiosity or anything, but I do think it is really well designed. I am always a fan of a grid design. I think the colors are simple and well suited for this movie. You have two big names and they are evident and at the top and it also gives you an idea of what the characters look like in the film. For this poster to be done in 1988 is also impressive, I feel like it is a little ahead of its time. Another note here. I feel like the simplicity of this poster alludes to the seriousness of its nature.

NEXT MOVIE: Money Talks (1997)

Full Metal Jacket

Year: 1987
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Gustov Hasford (novel) Stanley Kubrick, Gustov Hasford, and Michael Herr (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I think this is a perfect movie. It is Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece. There are many movies that I love and many that I will say are great but there aren’t many I ever call perfect. This is one of the ones I do though; it is an incredible film on a level above all others I describe that way. This movie means something where so many mean nothing. It has a purpose that transcends everything that most movies are made for. This movie will be forever remembered and loved because it is special, because Stanley Kubrick is an amazing filmmaker and because it tells a different story about the war.

Admittedly this is a movie I never understood until I actually understood The Vietnam War. I studied history in college and took an entire class specifically about the war. It was after that class that I revisited this film and recognized how great it really was. Before that I remembered always giving up during the half way point where the story goes from boot camp to Vietnam and the story seems to change so dramatically. The film almost feels like a comedy for the first half during the boot camp section but once it moves overseas it moves like the experience of those men. It changed dramatically, it became real, and it became something those of us that weren’t there could never understand. The first time I saw this movie I knew nothing about the Tet Offensive, or anything at all about the Vietnam War for that matter. I would imagine that everything after the boot camp half of the movie must be confusing to a viewer who doesn’t know anything about the Tet Offensive. For those that don’t know, the Tet Offensive was a major coordinated offensive counter strike from the Vietcong on a major Vietnam holiday during the war in 1968. At the time Americans were under the impression we were winning the war, but suddenly there was a major nationwide attack that changed everything. This movie eventually settles around that event and it is important to understand what actually happened when watching this film. The Tet Offensive occurred in 1968 during the Tet holiday in Vietnam in which no fighting was supposed to be done. It was a serious coordinated offensive attack all over North and South Vietnam that caught US and South Vietnamese forces by surprise and hit hard. It happened during a time the war was still developing for people back home in the US and many people were under the impression the Vietcong was nothing to worry about and we were beating them. The Tet Offensive proved not only that we weren’t easily defeating the Vietcong but that they were in fact a serious opponent as well. It then went on to take the war to the next step that would go on for another four years or so. The Tet Offensive was a significant event in The Vietnam War and I would suggest that anybody interested do further research about it because I am just getting this information from memory. The Vietnam War overall has a really fascinating history that everybody can learn from, I would suggest anybody and everybody to read about that war.

From the very beginning of this film you can see how great it is. I love the opening with all the recruits having their hair shaved off. They all have such different kinds of hair and hairstyles and they all begin to look so similar without them. It suggests the loss of identity, they are in the first stage of being stripped of who they are and molded into something different. The Marines are masters at making men into machines and this movie gives us a window into what it was like during the 60s. The fact that they are Marines at all makes this a different Vietnam film and that was something else I never understood when I was younger. Men were drafted into the Army prior to and during the Vietnam War, but not the Marines. The men we see in this film weren’t drafted, they volunteered to go, and it was their decision. That changes everything about this movie and their war experience in general. I think the strangest thing is that a guy like Private Pile was even able to get in, but there are probably men finding they aren’t cut out for what they decided to do every day in the Marines.

Private Pile’s role in the movie is very interesting and the part is played well by Vincent D’Onofrio. His character’s inability to get with the program is something that happens all of the time and this movie offers a great opportunity to see an example of it. The marines are tough, you get that seeing this movie if you don’t already know it, and some men just aren’t cut out for it. Private Pile obviously didn’t have what it took but the Marines don’t accept failure as an option. His drill instructor only got harder and harder on him until those efforts proved fruitless and then he made the whole squad suffer in his place. That led to the hazing that we see with the soap wrapped in towels. I think that scene is incredible because you can see that Joker knows he shouldn’t join in, but his own frustrations with Pile overcome him and he ultimately gives Pile the worst beating of anybody. When Pile actually goes crazy it’s clear that it was only a matter of time and it turns into such a dramatic and hard hitting scene.

A major part of what made the first half of the film so great was the performance of R. Lee Ermey. He brought his own personal experience to the role and made it so much more real for the viewer. Ermey spent over a decade as part of the Marines and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He actually served for over a year in Vietnam during his service so I’m sure he his opinion had a lot of weight during filming. Although there is no telling how suggestions were taken on a Stanley Kubrick set. Ermey’s role was so incredible that his career ballooned afterwards and he is still popular today. He is an interesting and enigmatic actor who I have always liked; he has such a unique and intimidating voice. He is perfect for so many roles.

Once the story goes into Vietnam we see such a different film because it is such a different world over there.  The men over there are all half mad, and the ones that aren’t half mad are totally bat shit crazy.  These were young men that went overseas to fight that war and they went into quite a mess.  They entered a world full of death and uncertainty.  Eventually they begin to question what they are even doing there because they don’t know anymore. They are told they are there to help the South Vietnamese gain their freedom from the Communist but more often than not they find themselves fighting the men that they are supposed to be there to help.  This was a common problem in Vietnam because the South Vietnamese troops were just as likely to turn around and fight the Americans as they were to fight the enemy.  This makes the whole purpose of the war confusing to the soldiers in the field and eventually they all have to question why they are there.  The one thing that they all do know for certain is that they are there to kill, and that is what they do, but it makes them crazier and crazier as time passes. With the individual interviews you see being recorded in the film you get a wide range of opinions about the war from the people involved.  It’s also really interesting to see how the craziest ones (Animal Mother) can put on a nice face for the cameras.

The individual interviews were a really incredible part of the movie because they are so informative but they can also be confusing to people who know little about the war.  Vietnam was, at the root, more of a political war than anything else and it is just an unfortunate reality that many many people suffered because of it.  The Vietnam War was fought to combat the growth of Communism in the East.  There was The Domino Theory that suggested if one country fell to Communism they all would and it became the position of the United States to not allow the Communist to gain ground in South East Asia.  This led to the creation of the South Vietnam democracy by the US government and that was who we allied with during The Vietnam War. The truth of it all is that the nation of South Vietnam never really existed; it was just set up by the US government to give us somebody to fight for. We would get natives from South Vietnam, train them to fight, and then put them in the field and back them up. Those people didn’t care whether or not they had freedom though. The whole thing was ridiculous and in reality the whole war was just a big mistake that went too far and many different men continued making more mistakes and took things farther.  It wasn’t a winnable war because there was no side that could win.  We couldn’t win because we were just helping, but the country we were helping didn’t really exist.  You can’t force freedom down the throats of people who just want foreign people to leave so they can go home to their farms and villages to live life as they always had.  The South Vietnamese soldiers in the field would more often than not turn and fight the Americans because their hearts weren’t in it for freedom.  Democracy made no difference to them and they weren’t going to die for it.  In a nutshell this is why the war was so ridiculous, and it accomplished nothing but death and destruction for both sides.

This movie makes several strong statements about the war but they are wasted on people who don’t understand the conflict. For those of us that do understand, this movie is more than moving and it can teach us plenty about the war.  The Vietnam War is one of the most interesting conflicts I have ever studied and I would encourage anybody interested in history to learn as much as you can about it.  It was an awful situation, as all wars are, but there wasn’t much glory in this war as there was in the ones that came before it i.e. WWI or WWII.  This movie shows us the effects the war had on the soldiers and on the country of Vietnam as well.  It says a lot about guerrilla warfare and how unfair it all is.  In the end the squad loses several important characters and risk quite a bit to resolve the situation.  All of them end up at the mercy of one single person and it turns out to be a girl that was doing all the killing.  That says a lot about the war right there.  They never knew who the enemy was, where they were, or how many of them might be waiting to attack.  These men had it hard, and their lives were on the line.  It’s unfair to make assumptions about them or pass judgment on the things that they did because we weren’t there and we don’t know.  They were dying for people who might very well turn around and shoot them while they were focused on the enemy.  Every day was a struggle just to survive and danger was around every corner.  That situation would wreak havoc on the minds of any of us, and we can’t hope to understand what it was like for those that were involved.

I might not have said this before watching the movie again for this review but I now feel that this is without doubt Stanley Kubrick’s finest work.  That is only my opinion but I consider it a perfect film and it is now my favorite of all his movies.  It didn’t win any awards, but Platoon may have stolen all the Vietnam thunder at the Oscars the year before.  Kubrick was a perfectionist and people had difficulty working with him because of that but his efforts paid off in spades with this movie.  Matthew Modine also did a great job in the lead role.  I think this kind of role should have propelled him on to the next level of stardom but it didn’t.  He has remained in the background of movies for a long time but he has never really become that headline actor I think he had the potential to be. This summer we will be able to see him in the background of another film but this time a big time movie.  Modine will be playing a small role in this summer’s The Dark Knight Riseswhich I think many of us are looking forward to.

I think I have sufficiently gone on forever about this movie but there is plenty I haven’t even mentioned.  Among the many things I haven’t mentioned is the soundtrack.  The music in this movie is excellent and does a great job of setting the tone for the film all around.  This is a graphic movie but a movie about The Vietnam War that isn’t graphic is a waste of your time.  It was a graphic conflict; there is no point to sugarcoating it. Bad things happened on all levels and as a nation I think we learned a lot from the conflict.  For example I think soldiers are treated differently today specifically because of that war.  There are also many ways in which we didn’t learn from the war as we entered such a strikingly similar conflict in Iraq.  I will side step the tangent that will lead me down though.  I think this is a perfect movie and I have LOVED watching it again.  I actually lost a fight with Amber about watching it a second time to write an even longer and better review. This movie isn’t one that she can appreciate so she won’t be adding in her own review.  Don’t let that discourage you though; this movie is worth your time.  If you don’t understand this movie then I suggest you educate yourself and watch it again.  This is a great movie and I would recommend it to anyone.

NEXT MOVIE: Galaxy Quest (1999)

SE7EN

Year: 1995
Directed By: David Fincher
Written By: Andrew Kevin Walker
Nominated for Best Film Editing


RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie is a perfect starting off point for this blog because in so many ways it is a perfect movie. Film Noir to the core and top of its genre. It was one of the first movies directed by David Fincher, who would go on to do many great movies. An all-star cast including the great, wise, and stoic Morgan Freeman. A younger Brad Pitt showing off some great range and outstanding acting skills. Gwyneth Paltrow, who hasn’t aged a day in 15 years now. Kevin Spacey whose name wasn’t listed in the credits to enhance the element of surprise. The always fantastic R. Lee Ermey, and even Shaft (Richard Roundtree) make an appearance in the movie. This movie was not for the tenderhearted in 1995, or even now for that matter. It is provocative, interesting, and shocking. The ending was more than just surprising it was emotionally compelling. Brad Pitt made me believe in this movie. He made me feel the pain of his character in the end, when he realizes what John Doe has done. Pitt became a star with this movie, I own the two movies he starred in prior to this film as well. He is good in those films but it is this one where you start to see his swagger. He manages to be ultra cool through most of the movie and then vulnerable and angry in the end. As I said before, he shows great range. This film is one that comes to mind when I think of Pitt’s best work, and personally I like to think that Brad Pitt is the actor James Dean would have been had he not died.
Kevin Spacey should not go unmentioned here either, he was just at the beginning of an amazing run that included The Usual Suspects, L.A. Confidential, and American Beauty. His John Doe, who kills to prove a point, is chilling yet mesmerizing at the same time. You know that he is a monster, a truly terrifying foe, but at one point he almost convinces you. He makes a point, you almost relate to him, and think that maybe the world has gotten a little out of control.
This is my first time blogging about a film but in all honesty I don’t think there is much more I really need to say about this film. I feel I should be careful to not give too much away about the plot in case someone reads this who hasn’t seen the film. I want to encourage that person to see it but I don’t think I need to convince them that it is great. I think the film speaks for itself, I am confident that anyone else who takes a chance on this film will enjoy it. Se7en was easily one of the best films of 1995 in my opinion, and owns it respective place as the first film on our movie rack.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan introduced me to so many films that I never even knew existed. He created this movie snob, a monster if you will. This film was one of the first ones. The first, second and even third time that I watched it, I was amazed. I thought Brad Pitt was amazing, but being a woman it is almost a sin to not think so, am I right? I loved the darkness of it. I loved the intensity of it. Why am I using past tense? I feel like I can no longer say I love this film. I feel like sometimes I say I do because I am “supposed” to love it. But, having recently watched it for this blog, I find it too dark, and too intense. Don’t get me wrong, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt and Gwenyth Paltrow all give stellar performances, I felt restless the whole time and not sucked into the film as I used to be many years ago. I can’t give this film a bad review at all, it really is amazing for what it is, but I find myself depressed and sad after watching it, not the same “ah-ha!” after the first few viewings of it. Even still, I am happy it sits on our collection.