American Sniper Misses Its Mark

American Sniper garnered great attention when it was nominated for six Oscars. The hype for the film was propelled by critics and viewers alike. But, sadly, the film does not live up to that that hype.

The movie details the military life of Chris Kyle (played by a Texas twanged Bradley Cooper), the deadly American military sniper credited with 160 kills over his four tours. The movie (SPOILER) follows his life from a rodeo ranch hand to his eventual death at the hands of another veteran. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie pays homage to the titular Navy Seal.

The film suffers from a horrible screen play. Jason Hall created elements that weren’t in the memoir and changed many things to try to create a typical movie story. This hurts the movie. The lines are cliché and are no different than any other mediocre war film. The movie is disjointed and doesn’t flow. Here’s a scene with the Seals, here’s a scene of Yaya crying on the phone, here’s a scene of Chris holding his baby awkwardly. It’s hard to follow exactly what the story is trying to show. Is it about PTSD? Is it about the legend? Is it about revenge?

Eastwood and Cooper both falter. In the final act, Eastwood gives into Hollywood clichés of a slow motion shot which is meant to amplify the action but it just slows it down. We’ve seen the same shooting/breath sequences in other films; this adds nothing new. Cooper does well with accent never faltering from the Texas twang and impressively bulks up his physical appearance. But there are sequences where he is trying too hard to portray his feeling with his body language and it’s awkward.

But Cooper excels in those few and far between sniper moments. He does well portraying the thoughts that go through Chris’ head as he decides who is a target. Chris is given the authcooper43ority to decide who is a threat and who isn’t. Cooper shows how heavy these decisions are on the man and how it affects his life in and outside of the Seals. The moments where Chris deals with his PTSD are when you feel for him the most; you want to reach out and comfort him.

Speaking of comfort, the movie does a horrible job of portraying the families of our war heroes. The role is written very one sided and Taya Kyle becomes a harpy always screaming at Chris and telling him to move on. When we do truly see the heart ache she feels for his husband, Sienna Miller butchers these moments with insane histrionics.

But, after all, it is the story of Chris’ life.  In the final moments, as you find out his fate and see footage from his memorial and the irony of the situation hits you, it’s deeply moving and brings tears to your eyes. The movie does well with showing you his life, his sacrifices, and his desire to protect our country. That sticks with you as you leave the theater and maybe that’s how it should be. You remember the man, not the movie.

Holiday Big Openers

 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In this final installment of The Hobbit adaptation, the story is stretched way beyond the point of APphoto_Film Review The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armiesentertaining. Peter Jackson uses material from the various appendices by J.R.R. Tolkien himself  to pad the story and just plain makes stuff up.

Laketown must deal with the deadly dragon that was released in the second movie. This hassle is taken of quickly and the story moves on to the fight over the dragon’s treasure. The Dwarves, Elves, Orcs and Humans each want a piece of the treasures held within the Lonely Mountain But the Dwarves, Human, and Elves have to band together to defeat the Orcs and save the legacy of their races.

The problem with this movie is that it is too long. The story suffers at the expense of expanding for three movies.  The entirety of The Hobbit could have easily been two movies while still expanding on Tolkien’s supplemtantal material.

Like the two before it, the movie looks good.  The effects are gorgeous and the make-up is effective. This go-around I did notice something: the two Dwarves we are supposed to empathize with the most  are the two that look the most human.  Quality actors help round out characters but even they can’t smooth over dodgy bits of exposition.

Honestly, I wanted more or the dragon and less of the endless battles. Hell, I just wanted the damn movie to be over.

Into The Woods

Into the Woods follows several well-known fairy tale characters as they try to obtain their greatestdepp-wolf1 wishes. It seems that to have each wish granted, they must enter the spooky woods that surround their homes. The characters find that they help each other achieve their dreams, but then, too late, they learn their wishes were not what they were cut out to be.

Unfortunately, the movie adaption of the Broadway show does not translate well. The story rambles on and changes focus. It becomes preachy and tries too hard to have a moral.  There were some interesting points with the highlight being Johnny’s Depp short appearance as The Wolf. This was the best musical sequence in the whole film.

The casting is the second issue.  James Corden and Emily Blunt are passable but Chris Pine can’t sing even though he’s great at being a charming jerk.  I also don’t understand why everyone loves Anna Kendrick so much, and she does not ever embody Cinderella for me. It seems like the casting was looking for big names instead of talent. But that’s not to say there isn’t some talent there. Meryl Streep was fantastic as was Lilla Crawford who played Red Riding Hood.

I’ll admit it looks good. Director Rob Marshall always manages to make his films look like the worlds they are set whether it is a Cook County Prison, pirate infested jungles, or creepy fairy tale woods.  Marshall does well with what he has, but the biggest issue is that he wasn’t given great material and actors to work with.