13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

A new review from The Movie Snob.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi  (B).  Remember American Sniper?  If you enjoyed that movie—and I mean the battle scenes, not the back-at-home scenes—then you will like 13 Hours.  This is the story of the September 11, 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.  How accurate it is, I must leave to others, but as a movie-going experience, I enjoyed it.  We experience the events mainly from the perspective of six CIA contractors—former Navy SEALS and the like who live at a secret CIA base not too far from the diplomatic compound.  Thanks to their training and remarkable musculature, they are, of course, basically an army unto themselves, and they do almost all of the fighting in the movie.  Unfortunately, they aren’t fleshed out too well as characters, and I had a hard time telling some of them apart.  (It helped that two of them, John Krasinski and David Denman, used to be on The Office, where they played romantic rivals for the affections of receptionist Pam Beasley.)  Of course, the main thrust of the movie is that the diplomatic compound was badly under-secured and that the State Department—or somebody—was at least criminally negligent for not sending whatever help was available.  I didn’t perceive the movie as too much of an attack on the present administration or the then-secretary of state, but it definitely puts the lie to the administration’s and press’s initial reports that the attack was a local protest that got out of hand instead of a planned and premeditated assault.  Anyway, I thought the battle scenes were engrossing and conveyed well the “fog of war” in a strange land where the enemies and friendlies were virtually indistinguishable.  On the down side, there is a decent amount of cheesy dialogue to be endured.  Still, it’s definitely one of the better efforts from director Michael Bay (The Island, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen).

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

From a shell-shocked Movie Snob

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (D). Maybe I was just confused because I didn’t see the first installment of this franchise, but this very long movie seemed like the most ridiculous thing I have seen on a movie screen in a very long time. It is becoming a perennial complaint of mine that big battle scenes in these summer blockbusters are so fast and so poorly edited that you have no idea what in the world is actually going on. Every fight scene (and there are about nine of them) is a loud and deathly dull blur. I gather that there’s a big war on between two camps of extraterrestrial robots (that can transform), and we are unlucky enough that Earth has become their battlefield. This dud probably deserves an “F,” but there were a couple of decently humorous moments, and I appreciated the depiction of our men in uniform as exceptionally brave and (generally) extremely competent. Although they’re also apparently suicidal, since our finest weaponry seems to have little effect on the diabolical decepticons. Okay, I’ve wasted too much of my effort and your time on this review. SKIP THIS MOVIE.

Transformers

More good stuff from Nick at Nite

Transformers

Indeed, there is more than meets the eye. This is a true summer blockbuster. It has action, adventure, mayhem, a PG love interest, funny sidekicks and character actors, explosions, and the good guys winning. Doing the admittedly difficult, coming up with a good story for a feature-length movie about an 1980s toy and a serialized cartoon, is very impressive. Basically, bad robots must be defeated by good robots. Good robots are protecting boy who has the key to the survival of our planet and species. Sound like it might jump the shark. It does. Several times. That is what makes it so great. I give this movie an “A.” See it twice, then buy the DVD. Wow.

Munich; Syriana; The Island

New reviews from That Guy Named David.

Munich (A-)

Coming into the this movie, I thought the Munich Olympic massacre occurred in 1968 instead of 1972, showcasing how very little I knew of the event. After the movie, I found myself surfing the internet to find out more about the hostage situation, as well as Israel’s response to the massacre over the next several years. To me, that is the sign of a good movie if it makes me want to learn more about the subject of the movie. The bulk of the movie follows the actions of a hit team organized by the Mossad (Israeli Secret Service) to track down and assassinate those responsible for the murder of the 11 Israeli athletes in Munich. While the movie does spend a significant amount of time showcasing the action scenes portraying each of the assassinations, Spielberg does a masterful job of setting forth the moral equivalency debate that such actions inevitably provoke. Throughout the film, you can see the actions of this hit squad incite reactions from the Muslim groups targeted by the Israelis. Spielberg did not attempt to sugarcoat the acts of Israel, nor justify the acts of the Muslim groups responsible for Israeli-targeted terrorism. However, Munich forces the audience to take in all the acts and make those judgments on their own. Very well-done. One of the best movies I have seen in quite a while.

Syriana (C+)

I saw on a “Best of 2005” movie show where the reviewer listed Syriana as the number 4 movie of 2005. He must have been vying for a position in Section 8 Productions, George Clooney’s production company, because I can name 20 films I saw this year (and some I didn’t see) that put this one to shame. Syriana is a complicated movie intended to set forth the complex relationship between oil companies, foreign governments, Muslim extremists, private and governmental lawyers, energy analysts, princes and emirs, presidents, and the always demonized Central Intelligence Agency. While generally these are the types of stories I find interesting, the way Syriana is made annoyed me more than it kept my attention. Basically, for the first hour or so, you have snapshot followed by snapshot followed by snapshot with absolutely no connections between any of them. Eventually (during the last 30 minutes or so), the director attempts to put the snapshots together to form a mosaic but instead gets a convoluted, confusing, and anti-climactic ending that leaves the viewer wondering what in the hell happened over the past 2+ hours. If you are in the mood for a heavy movie, see Munich. On a side note, they have one scene showcased in the movie that was filmed in Hondo, Texas, hometown of this reviewer. Needless to say, it was a little strange seeing my hometown of 6000 people acknowledged for a few seconds in a George Clooney/Matt Damon movie. Not enough to make me enjoy the movie, but still interesting.

The Island (B-)

Pleasantly surprised. I kinda have a thing for Scarlett Johansson (We Bought a Zoo), and my girlfriend has a major crush on Ewan Moulin Rouge! McGregor (I think we look very similar). Anyway, she refused to watch the movie because the plot line of human clones discovering their clonehood and then attacking their makers really didn’t appeal to her. Nonetheless, because I got bored with football about 8 hours in, I decided to conclude my holiday weekend with a mindless action movie. Not bad. There really isn’t a whole lotta substance to the movie, and the dialogue is weak, but for some reason, I enjoyed it. Maybe I was taken by the beauty of young Ms. Johannson, but in any event, not a bad rental.