“A family man begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot.” So reads the synopsis of the upcoming film Good Kill starring Ethan Hawke and Mad Men’s January Jones.
Hawke plays Tom Egan, the drone pilot in question, offering a brooding portrait of self-loathing. Such is the proper attitude of a man toward killing while facing no personal danger. The film’s tagline reads: “If you never face your enemy, how can you face yourself?”
“Don’t ask me if this is a just war. It’s not up to us,” Bruce Greenwood advises as Hawke’s grizzled commanding officer. “To us, it’s just war.”
“I am a pilot, and I’m not flying,” Hawke bemoans. “I don’t know what it is that I am doing. But it’s not flying.”
Evoking recent comments directed at the late Chris Kyle, Hawke continues, “Everyday, I feel like a coward, taking potshots at somebody halfway around the world.”
While overt characterizations of American military action as cowardice may be confined to Hollywood and the halls of academia, they proceed from a theory of war which has dominated American foreign policy since World War II.
So-called just war theory emerges from a bastardization of Christian doctrine which prescribes sacrificial combat. According to the doctrine, war should not be fought strictly in self-defense, but in service of some “higher” goal – like the freedom or relief of others. Shedding American blood for something like “Iraqi freedom” is considered a superior motive to fighting strictly for American sovereignty or American lives.
A critical component of just war theory is “proportionality,” the idea that a retaliatory response should be restrained and remain comparable to the threat faced. The tenet of proportionality would have rejected the dropping of two atomic bombs on Imperial Japan, for instance.
From such a perspective, it’s easy to see how one might judge a role like sniper or drone pilot to be cowardly. After all, the explicit purpose of such roles is to engage in highly disproportionate combat, to maximize lethality while minimizing risk. That doesn’t jive with a sacrificial agenda. To be “just,” combat must present similar risk to all combatants. You must “face your enemy.” On a larger scale, “just war” must be fought not to win with overwhelming force, but to save an enemy population from themselves.
Just war theory is anything but moral. A truly moral war policy, which you can find articulated here, would not derive its righteousness from sacrificial risk-taking. Rather, the morality of military force would be judged solely on whether it was retaliatory in nature. The objective would not be to “fight fair,” but to achieve unquestioned victory through the utter destruction or unconditional surrender of the enemy.
We’ve all seen it a few dozen times by now, the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. For the most part, it looks quite good. Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and hiring of Abrams signaled a clear advancement of the franchise from the malaise of the prequels to something better resembling the original trilogy. Indeed, this trailer’s aesthetic looks a lot more like classic Star Wars than anything we saw in Episodes I through III.
There’s only one major hiccup, and it’s quite concerning. While the TIE fighters look like TIE fighters, the X-Wings look like X-Wings, and the Millennium Falcon looks better than ever, what’s up with that new lightsaber?
With Abrams’ direction setting the tone for the plethora of Star Wars films due in the next six years, his creative choices prove definitive and therefore important. We can look to his previous efforts in the Star Trek franchise for clues into how he will approach it.
One thing that seemed very clear from Abrams’ approach to Star Trek was that he wasn’t shy about drastically altering the aesthetic of the universe. Everything from the way phasers work to the look of warp drive to the Apple store-themed bridge of the Enterprise was a sharp deviation from the franchise’s established look and feel.
The new Star Wars teaser trailer for Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released yesterday. I see what they are trying to do: give people hints of the movie to whet their appetite. That’s what a teaser trailer is supposed to do, of course. But there are no hints of a story. None. The most notable element of the trailer is a new lightsaber, a lightbroadsword really. It has already inspired a meme.
— Dustin Sandoval (@DustinMSandoval) November 28, 2014
As the Twitterverse also noted, Star Wars has already been mocked for gadgety lightsabers. Phineas and Ferb got there this summer. Of course, that spoof aired on the Disney Channel so they might’ve planned it for maximum social media buzz for the trailer. So either they are uncoordinated and don’t realize they are walking into a trap of mockery other Disney teams designed or they are focusing on PR gimmicks. Neither option bodes well for the story.
— NAchow (@nachow) November 28, 2014
I admit there may be some pessimistic expectations at work. The weak storytelling of the prequels probably dampens most people’s hope for better movies this time, but the trailer does nothing to give us hope. The first trailer invoked a story with “a boy, a girl, and a universe.”
The trailer for The Phantom Menace was brilliant. The fact that the movie didn’t deliver doesn’t change the excellence of the trailer, which teased the visuals and the music with the story. I watched it hundreds of times. “Every saga has a beginning…”
Movie trailers released throughout October preview some huge titles coming to theaters in near weeks and months. Everything from quirky independent romance to blockbuster action adventure is represented here. Which trailer came out on top? You’ll be surprised.
#10. Life Partners
A narrative born of modern themes, to be sure, Life Partners follows the relationship between two female friends, one of whom happens to be gay. As each wind their way in and out of romantic entanglements with others, the relationship between them is tested and reevaluated.
It will be curious to see how sexual orientation is handled in this film. If these two friends end up together in spite of one of them being straight, which certainly seems to be the trajectory drawn in this trailer, doesn’t that kind of run up against the militant “born that way” narrative?
Fall is decisively under way. September saw the release of many new movie trailers. It’s an interesting time of the year, not quite late enough to start seeing much from next year’s highly anticipated lineup of blockbusters. That clears the way for some lesser known projects to take a greater share of the public’s attention. Here are the top 10 most popular movie trailers released in September.
10. God Help the Girl
Emily Browning has a stealthy little career going for her, working steadily in films which no one sees. Her most mainstream appearance came in Zack Snyder’s directorial misstep Sucker Punch. The other places you may have seen her were this year’s Pompeii and the Jim Carrey showpiece from a few years back, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
She has a trademark beauty which oscillates between strange and captivating. It’s a look which suits this eccentric musical drama well.
10. Daniel Deronda
A multi-part BBC series based on the powerful English classic penned by Zionist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Daniel Deronda tells the story of a young gentleman who discovers, through a series of almost mystical events, that his mother is Jewish. A fantastic examination of Jewish identity in Victorian high society, the novel was cited by the likes of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus as influential on their decision to become Zionists. Wonderfully cast, the BBC version is grossly engaging and well worth a marathon viewing.
We’re entering a time of the year when big hit movies taper off and a drought descends until the holidays commence. That’s reflected in the late summer trailer releases ranked here. Unlike recent months, no big franchises make appearances (if you exclude reboots and spin-offs).
Instead, we have a lot of original properties, many of which seem to be positioning for Oscar consideration. Here are the top 10 most popular late summer movie trailers.
10. Men, Women & Children
If this trailer proves indicative of the final film, it looks like an experiment in visual storytelling. Focused on the digitalization of personal relationships, Men, Women & Children appears to be essentially silent and subtitled. It will be interesting to see if it contains any spoken dialog at all.
Adam Sandler returns to a dramatic role, something he has demonstrated proficiency in before. He earned critical acclaim for 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love and played a character not unlike himself in 2009’s Funny People.
My first notice of last night’s VMA performances came from my “Camille Paglia” Google alert. Someone wanted a Paglia analysis STAT. Curious, I checked my feminist feeds for some reaction context. They were either glowing about Beyonce’s Divine Feminism, asking as MTV did, “What more could we have asked for?” or silent. Then I watched and I […]
The month of July produced a bevy of movie trailers for releases we can look forward to in the fall. The holiday season tends to be where studios place releases they stand most proud of, a showcase for the Academy Awards. That said, there are also some good old-fashioned popcorn flicks on this list, the top 10 most popular trailers released throughout July.
10. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth saga comes to its presumptive close with this final chapter of The Hobbit film adaptation. Perhaps you’ve been putting off upgrading from your old DVDs to The Lord of the Rings trilogy on Blu-ray in anticipation of the inevitable super-mega-funtime edition of the complete Middle Earth anthology.
News that 2012’s The Unexpected Journey would be the first of a new trilogy adapted from the relatively short J.R.R. Tolkien novel evoked suspicion that Jackson and the studio were stretching to wring every last bit of cash out of the franchise. But The Desolation of Smaug redeemed that impression, demonstrating that there was indeed enough story to warrant three films. This final entry looks poised to begin with a bang and sustain the novel’s climax throughout its running time.
This seems to echo 2011′s Hanna a bit in style, theme, and marketing doesn’t it? Still — not a bad movie to choose to rip off and Rotten Tomatoes seems to suggest as much with 62% of critics approving and 66% of audiences liking it. The trailer reminds of Watchmen and The Matrix a bit too, looks like Scarlett Johansson ends up going Dr. Manhattan crossed with Neo by the film’s end.
Do you like the international trailer more than the American one?
Paging Susan L.M. Goldberg: looks like a new pop culture goddess may be rising…
1. Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff’s follow-up to his cult film debut Garden State
This month sees a new feature here at PJ Lifestyle, our review of movie trailers promoting upcoming theatrical releases. This will be a work in progress, guided heavily by your feedback and insight. So don’t hold back.
To kick things off, we present a list of the top 10 movie trailers released in June, based on their online popularity. There’s a surprising mix of several-hundred-million-dollar would-be blockbusters and smaller independent films, everything from chick flicks to the epic actioners you might expect. We begin with:
10. Very Good Girls
Two actresses work to advance their careers in this sexually charged coming-of-age drama. Dakota Fanning continues to shed her child star image, while Elizabeth Olsen continues to distinguish her individual brand from that of her more widely known elder sisters. The two play girls who “make a pact to lose their virginity during their first summer out of high school,” a plan complicated when they both pursue the same man.
Both Fanning and Olsen have portrayed older roles, and this may seem like a step backwards but for the mature subject matter. Peter Sarsgaard looks to turn in another performance as a pervy creeper, something he’s quite good at. The film also stars Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield lead Clark Gregg.
In a stark departure from the kind of roles he is known for, comic actor Steve Carell takes a turn to the dramatic in November’s Foxcatcher, co-starring Channing Tatum. The synopsis:
Based on the true story of Mark Schultz, an Olympic wrestler whose relationship with sponsor John du Pont and brother Dave Schultz would lead to unlikely circumstances.
Do you buy Steve Carell in a dramatic role? Does an Olympic wrestling movie interest you? Let us know in the comments below.
All week I’ve been seeing anti-Noah posts popping up on Facebook from Christian friends who are convinced that the not-yet-released Darren Aronofsky epic must be a liberal, secularist perversion of the biblical story, morphing Noah into a drunk and spouting an anti-human, pro-environmentalist message. Where’d the controversy come from? According to Jordan Hoffman at the Times of Israel, entertainment trade mag Variety needed to drum up readership on a slow news day:
A strange agenda group for “faith driven consumers” sent out a push-poll asking if people who hadn’t yet seen the film if they were “satisfied with a biblically themed film… which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?”
In other words, a bunch of opt-in Christians were asked if they were ready to see what some scarf-wearing artiste from Jew York City had cooked up with his liberal and probably homosexual friends when, you know, they weren’t drinking blood and hoarding gold. Some 98% of respondents said that, no, they were not satisfied.
It would have been a nothing story had the press release not been picked up by Variety (one of the main entertainment trade publications) on a particularly slow news day. The Internet ran with headlines that basically read “98% of Christian audiences are enraged by ‘Noah!’” forcing Paramount, which has already had plenty of tsuris with this film, to issue an explanatory press release of their own.
The stereotypes Hoffman plays with in his commentary entertainingly highlight the unspoken rift between Jews and Christians when it comes to biblical epics. We, for the most part, stand back while Christians re-interpret our history, our people, our nation, and our sacred text in light of their own slightly Aryan (why are ancient Israelis consistently blue-eyed Brits?) Sunday School memories. This time, however, a Jewish writer/director has paired with a Jewish writer to bring a Torah story to the silver screen. That interpretation has caused Christian uproar, something the filmmakers prepared for when they sought out production partner Rob Moore, who is both a vice chair at Paramount and a devout Christian who supports the film.
We say you should not judge a book by its cover. However, when you have nothing else to go on, the cover will do. In film, our first impression takes shape from promotional materials, the most descriptive of which tend to be trailers.
From what we have seen so far from Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to his 2009 breakout hit District 9, he appears bent on further developing that film’s none too subtle social agenda. The official synopsis of Elysium:
In the year 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined planet. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the crime and poverty that is now rampant throughout the land. The only man with the chance to bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy in desperate need to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission – one that pits him against Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces – but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well.
In the trailer, we see Foster’s Delacourt order the destruction of several “undocumented” shuttles carrying illegal immigrants from Earth to Elysium. Clearly, we are meant to connect the imagery to real-life immigration scenarios. Like Cuban refuges braving a 90 mile trip in small boats for a taste of the American dream, the space-bound huddled masses of Elysium risk life and limb to escape untenable circumstances.
Added to the immigration meme, we detect the tone of Occupy Wall Street. Damon’s Max seeks to save the people of Earth and “bring equality to these worlds” through the use of force, justified by his “desperate need.” Though not overtly mentioned in the trailer, capitalism appears in the cross-hairs. An apparent industrial accident caused while in the employ of a corporate Elysium contractor, leaves Max with five days to live. The means to survive exists on the space station, medical pods which can apparently cure any illness or repair any injury. However, the only way to access one is to take on the Man.
Note: The following was originally published nearly a year ago upon the initial release of the first teaser trailer for Man of Steel. In the many months since, we have learned much more about director Zack Snyder’s approach to reinventing Superman for the silver screen. In celebration of this week’s long-anticipated release of the film, we’re revisiting this wishlist, adding commentary on how the trailers, interviews, and behind-the-scenes material released thusfar indicate whether Snyder and company will land these punches.
In the 2004 film Finding Neverland, playwright J.M. Barrie is depicted seeding orphaned children throughout the opening-night audience of Peter Pan. He does this to break the ice for the surrounding adults, gambling that the children’s earnest reactions will suspend disbelief in grown-ups.
I was reminded of Barrie’s strategy upon watching the teaser trailer for Man of Steel, which was attached to the recent release of The Dark Knight Rises. For those not expecting it, the teaser plays its subject close to the chest. Shots of rural America are interposed with footage of a black-bearded, blue-eyed migrant worker hitching rides between jobs. Visually, all is ordinary, even a bit mundane. Only the voice-over hints at something special about this man. In the version I saw (there are two making the rounds), Kevin Costner speaks of a moral choice ahead and states that this man, his son, will undoubtedly change the world.
It is only after that subdued montage, when our interest is piqued regarding how this seemingly ordinary person could change anything, that we get a brief glimpse of something up in the sky, a caped figure propelled without effort, zipping through the clouds at such speed that he leaves behind a sonic boom. Then, we behold the iconic S shield.
It was at that moment during my viewing that a young child among the audience gasped and cheered.
I doubt he was a J.M. Barrie plant, but the moment played as he would have intended. The whole audience took that kid’s glee as permission to get excited. After the Dark Knight legend ends, the Man of Steel’s begins.
The grounded portrayal evident in the teaser offers hope that this on-screen iteration of Superman will depart significantly from the increasingly cartoonish super-powered soap operas of the past thirty years. Lending credence to that hope is a familiar creative team. Christopher Nolan, who directed the Dark Knight trilogy, is producing Man of Steel. He also came up with the story, which was put to script by Dark Knight scribe David S. Goyer. Direction is provided by Watchman and 300 auteur Zack Snyder.
Assuming Nolan can tame Snyder’s often chaotic visual style, it seems likely that Man of Steel will revitalize the Superman mythos for a generation that’s never been properly introduced. Sure, there was Superman Returns a couple years ago, and the adventures of a young Clark Kent in television’s Smallville. But neither of those efforts effectively captured the essence of the character or his world.
Those of us with young children today grew up with the films of the late ’70s and ’80s. For us, Superman was and shall in spirit remain Christopher Reeve. The earnest humanity he brought to Clark Kent was eclipsed only by his steadfast portrayal of Superman.
Richard Donnor, director of the 1978 original, famously sought verisimilitude.
You will believe a man can fly.
So read the teaser poster. And we did believe. The film is still regarded as one of the best in the genre. But it was not without flaws, and things have slid downhill since.
Superman II was only partially shot by Donnor. It was finished by and credited to Richard Lester, who added heavy camp reminiscent of super hero parodies like the ’60s Batman television series. Though much of Donnor’s verisimilitude endured in the final cut, it was wholly absent from the absurd entries which followed. Reeve remained impeccable as Superman, but could not overcome his increasingly ludicrous surroundings.
After Donnor and Reeve, Kent and his alter-ego retreated to the small screen in various iterations until 2006’s Superman Returns. Coming off the success of the X-Men franchise, and in light of vocal reverence for Richard Donnor, it seemed the Superman property was in good hands under director Bryan Singer. Alas, what emerged in theaters was a super disappointment for reasons we shall explore.
In order to set things right, and restore Superman’s verisimilitude, there are several things next year’s reboot must do. The fact that Nolan and company are proceeding as though no previous films exist provides an opportunity to recast the godfather of all superheroes in an image long lost. Here are six punches director Zack Snyder must land in Man of Steel.
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I’m pretty sure I’m down for this movie. I’ve been hesitant, but I really dig the new trailer. While I don’t actually love the aesthetic, it’s vivid and dazzling and will look wonderful in 3D, not that muddled garbage we saw in Alice in Wonderland. I’m a big fan of Sam Raimi’s goofy sense of humor, and all of the actors seem to be having a great time here.
I never know what to think about James Franco – that guy is such a weird mystery to me – but he has a naturally self-pleased, humbug air about him that will serve him well as Oscar Diggs, the young Wizard of Oz. And he’s in turns manipulated and assisted by three of the loveliest and most talented witches possible, with Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis turning in performances as Glinda, Evanora and Theodora, respectively.
Also, Zach Braff plays a flying monkey.
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hat tip: Buzzfeed
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Two days after September 11, 2001, a construction worker discovered amidst the rubble of one of the collapsed World Trade Center towers two intersecting steel beams that became known as the World Trade Center cross.
The cross immediately became a symbol of faith, comfort, and hope to the rescuers who presided over the massive recovery and to the nation at large.
The WTC cross is now considered an icon and currently stands as the emotional centerpiece of the National September 11 Memorial.
Until I started researching this piece, I was unaware that there was a movie produced in 2007 about the miraculous WTC cross. Here is the trailer of The Cross and the Towers by John Schneider.
Apparently those two offensive steel beams — which happened to collapse in the shape of a cross — are, according to Edwin Kagin, the group’s legal director, “a violation of both federal and New York law in that public funds will be used to establish the Christian religion on public land.”
Adding to that argument is the organization’s president, David Silverman, who describes the cross as “a clear instance of a violation of the separation of church and state in its extreme.”
If you visit the American Atheists web site, be sure to read their account of the legal fight. What I found especially exasperating is that the WTC cross is repeatedly referred to as “the girder set.”
Fortunately, this past August, officials at the 9/11 memorial museum started to fight back by taking the necessary legal steps to have the lawsuit thrown out of court. The museum’s argument is that it is an independent non-profit organization and not a government agency. But more importantly, “the cross is an artifact and not a religious symbol.”
Actually, one could argue that is it both and that that is precisely what makes the WTC cross so significant.
Hat tip: Movies with Butter.
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