Answering the Call of Duty: 7 Films to Watch
Peter Berg, known to many as the creator of Friday Night Lights, has always had a thing for realism. His new film Lone Survivor might be his most realistic yet, but it also resembles nothing more than a rigorous game of the online war sim Call of Duty.
This resemblance is both the weakness and the strength of Lone Survivor, which proves an apt showcase for some of Hollywood's best young male talent, and Hollywood's everyman supreme Mark Wahlberg, the titular character. Staging filming in the woods of New Mexico, Berg could never be accused of turning this true-life story into a Platoon-like affair, and wisely focuses on the brutality and horror of intense moments of crisis. Fractured bones, splayed bodies, festering wounds and savage impacts are all par for the course as a Seal squad is ambushed in the mountains of Afghanistan and subsequently torn apart by their adversaries, Taliban operatives in benefit of a severe home court advantage.
The gunshots, grenade blasts and bone-crunching falls are all extremely loud and incredibly close, and the brutal choreography of a number of slow motion hill tumbles trumps the best in "rag doll physics" engines in today's multiplayer war games for both brutal realism and terrible intensity.
Much like most of today's video games, Lone Survivor is a production that seems to be entirely by men, for men, boasting big names like Taylor Kitsch, Ben Fisher and Emile Hirsch as a tough-as-nails-and-none-the-less-f***ing-destroyed Navy Seal squad, plus a highly believable Eric Bana as the team captain. As a studio effort, it's not without its moment of glory, but as a commentary on the horrors of war, Lone Survivor is effective in the extreme. It seems Berg's real intention, though, is to put you right there, in the shock, awe, and terror of Modern Warfare. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Bay Area Theatres.
Osage County - This cagey, stagey Oscar-bait (based on the Broadway hit play by Tracy Letts) doesn’t quite live up to its source material, but if you can get beyond the obvious problems, it’s a guilty pleasure of the Lifetime ilk in the best way. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Bay Area Theaters.
Liv & Ingmar - The finely nuanced film about the 42-year love of legendary actress Liv Ullman and Swedish director Ingmar Bergman may struggle to find an audience because of its narrow focus, but genuine fans of cinema and anyone with a soft spot for the ruminations of a pair of old soul mates will find it a treat. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Opera Plaza.
The Little Tramp at 100 - SF Silent Film Festival presents this mini-fest of Charlie Chaplin classics, accompanied as always by a great live score (provided by the SF Chamber Orchestra and pianist Jon Mirsalis). Come early for shorts, or come later in the day for The Kid and The Gold Rush. Castro Theatre, Saturday only.
I Was a Teenage Teenager - This Indiefest-sponsored mini-fest is all about boys, girls, and wrangling the raging hormones that turn from pimples into arguments around15. It boasts some great films too. Highlights include Jonathan Kaplan’s amazing Over the Edge, the Michael Fassbinder-starring UK hit Fish Tank, and Michelle O’Marah’s 2002 remake of Valley Girl. Roxie, Friday through Tuesday 1/10-1/14.
A Touch of Sin - Contemporary Chinese master Jia Zhangke’s amazing, gorgeous exploration of the pitfalls of contemporary Chinese living continues its run at Roxie through next week. Don’t miss it. Really. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Roxie.
Film Capsule 1964: Groundbreaking Cinema Half a Century Later - Oddball screens a vast program of some of the finest shorts from 50 years ago. Treats include Paul Julian’s The Hangman, Eliot Noyes Jr.’s claymation Clay, and Origin of the Species and Carson Davidson’s beatnik classic Help, My Snowman's Burning Down. Oddball Film + Video, Thursday only.