Did ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ draw inspiration from Operation Focus during the Six-Day War?

Star Wars Force Awakens XWingThe new teaser trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is out, and it looks pretty darn amazing. It’s got a little something old, a little something new, and George Lucas has been replaced by J.J. Abrams. Score. However, the history nerd in me has his interest piqued because of the squadron of X-Wing fighters seemingly headed into battle about 100 feet above a large body of water. Did Mr. Abrams draw inspiration from Israel’s Six-Day War — Operation Focus in particular? If so, then I’m more excited to see the film.

If you’re not familiar with what the Israeli air force did during the Six-Day War in 1967, then look it up. In short, Israel’s air force pulled off a daring operation in which they flew over the Mediterranean — so low that they would not be picked up by Egyptian radar — and then destroyed the entire Egyptian air force.

If J.J. Abrams needed the Rebel Alliance to pull off an inspiring win, then drawing from Operation Focus was a brilliant move. If it turns out to have absolutely nothing to do with the movie, then I guess we’re just left with really cool images of X-Wing Fighters flying over water. It’s a win-win situation.

Star Wars Force AwakensLet me know what you thought of the trailer below, and make sure to include your thoughts on the new lightsaber as well. I think the crossguard looks cool, but I’m not sure if it would work in battle. Since I’m not a Sith Lord, I’ll withhold judgment until December, 2015.

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ hits the mark: We ignore the stars to ‘worry about our place in the dirt’

Interstellar black holeChristopher Nolan’s Interstellar is out, and it is ambitious. It aims to be a blockbuster movie, but it is also about big ideas — really big ideas — and it succeeds on almost every level. It is entertaining, but it forces anyone with the least bit of intellectual curiosity to leave the theater with a lot to think about.

On a cursory level, Interstellar is about a group of astronauts who go on an expedition to find habitable planets for humans to colonize. The earth is dying, and Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), must leave his family behind, knowing that he may never see them again.

On a deeper level, Interstellar is about what we seem to have lost as a species. Cooper says early on in the film, “We used to look up in the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”

There are two types of people: There are those like Cooper and Brand (Anne Hathaway), and then there are those like the Orwellian teachers early on in the film who try to brainwash Cooper’s child Murph, played wonderfully by Mackenzie Foy.

Teacher: Murph is a great kid. She’s really bright, but she’s been having a little trouble lately. She brought this in to show the other students. The section on the lunar landings.

Cooper: Yeah, it’s one of my old textbooks. She always loved the pictures.

Teacher: It’s an old federal textbook. We’ve replaced them with the corrected versions.

Cooper: Corrected?

Teacher: Explaining how the Apollo missions were faked to bankrupt the Soviet Union.

Cooper: You don’t believe we went to the moon?

Teacher: I believe that it was a brilliant piece of propaganda. That the Soviets bankrupted themselves pouring resources into rockets and other useless machines.

Cooper: Useless machines?

Teacher: And if we don’t want a repeat of the excess and wastefulness of the 20th Century, then we need to teach our kids about this planet — not tales of leaving it.

Cooper: You know, one of those useless machines they used to make was called an MRI. And if we had any of those left, the doctors would have been able to cut the cyst in my wife’s brain before she died, instead of afterwards. And then she would have been the one sitting her listening to this instead of me, which would’ve been good because she was always the calmer one.

Are we merely meant to run around in the dirt like ants, or are we meant to explore — to constantly seek out new horizons — physically, mentally, and spiritually?

Intersellar Cooper

What are the limits of science? What does it mean for science that the human body might not have the hardware necessary to perceive realities that exist outside of its five senses?

Cooper: You’re a scientist, Brand.

Brand: So listen to me when I say love isn’t something that we invented. It’s observable. Powerful. It has to mean something.

Cooper: Love has meaning, yes. Social utility, social bonding, child rearing.

Brand: You love people who died. Where’s the social utility in that?

Cooper: None.

Brand: Maybe it means something more — something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it. All right Cooper. Yes, the tiniest possibility of seeing Wolf again excites me. That doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Cooper: Honestly, Amelia, it might.

It’s hard to comment much more on Mr. Nolan’s film without giving away key details. In short, it’s a touching,  momentarily terrifying, beautiful labor of love by a man who is clearly a master of his craft. Han’s Zimmer’s score is fantastic and all of the primary actors involved did a superb job.

If you get a chance to see Interstellar before it leaves theaters, then I highly suggest making time on a Friday or Saturday night. Then, let me know what you thought. I would love to hear what you have to say.

‘The Wolverine’ does Logan proud: Hugh Jackman atones for ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’

Wolverine Hugh Jackman

Logan may not rest easy at night, but Hugh Jackman can. It’s official: He has now atoned for 2009’s ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine.’

In 2009, the brilliant minds at Fox decided to put Deadpool, “the merc with a mouth,” into a Wolverine movie … only they sewed his mouth shut and did away with one of the coolest uniforms in comics. The movie was a letdown, so one can’t blame an American audience for being coy on the opening weekend of ‘The Wolverine.’ Regardless, it still did pretty darn well; fans have been given a quality product.

Hollywood’s summer tentpole strategy continued to suffer in North America with the muted debut of The Wolverine, but the X-Men spin-off more than made up for it overseas.

The 20th Century Fox pic opened to $55 million domestically and roughly $86.1 million internationally for a worldwide total of $141.1 million — easily covering the film’s $120 million production budget. Internationally, it posted the strongest opening ever for an X-Men title.

Wolverine certainly isn’t a dud in North America and still claimed the No. 1 position, but came in at least $10 million behind expectations and well behind the $85.1 million opening of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in early May 2009. It opened on par with last summer’s X-Men: First Class, an origins pic versus a sequel.

Word of mouth will help ‘The Wolverine’ out, which is a good thing because it’s obvious that Mr. Jackman loves the character. He’s not getting any younger — a bitter pill to swallow when playing a guy who doesn’t age — but at least the success of this film will guarantee him a few more times running around on screen as the mutant.

Perhaps the smartest move director James Mangold did was to scale everything down into something that wasn’t a typical “superhero” movie. It’s a Samurai flick. It’s a Japanese mob story. It’s a character study. And yes, it just so happens to have super-powered mutants doing what you expect super-powered mutants to do. There’s a crisscrossing of genres that really works, which is impressive because it could have gone horribly wrong.

In short, Wolverine has retreated into the forest after the events depicted in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand.’ Having killed the woman he loved, Jean Grey, he attempts to deny who (and what) he is — a soldier. The result? He’s a man without a purpose. He wants to die — or so he thinks.

Logan is eventually tracked down by a mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima). She tells him that a man he saved during World War II, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), is dying and would like to see him one last time. Logan relents, and the two are off to Japan. From there the plot unfolds with Wolverine having to play protector for Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), all while trying to keep himself alive; his healing powers have mysteriously been suppressed and the bullet holes and blood loss take a toll on his body in ways he’s never experienced.

With all of this going on,’The Wolverine’ is at its best when it’s getting inside Logan’s head. I always pictured a Wolverine film to be reminiscent of ‘Rambo: First Blood’ instead of fare meant for “pop-corn” sensibilities, (e.g., ‘Iron Man 3’). Wolverine is a tortured soul, and it was nice to see him in a film that slowed things down to explore the mind of a soldier who is struggling to find peace. In between satisfying action scenes (the bullet-train fight in particular), fans finally get to see Logan’s psychology explored in ways that do him justice.

‘The Wolverine’ is not without its flaws, but it’s hard to deny that Hugh Jackman worked overtime (physically and mentally) to make up for ‘X-Men Origins.’ Fans might not have a healing factor like Wolverine, but this latest effort will rebuild a lot of trust with skeptical moviegoers.

Tekkonkinkreet: Anime that transcends anime

Tekkonkinkreet White

This review of Tekkonkinkreet comes far too long after the movie came out — 2006 — so all I have to say for myself is: better late than never.

Most of my friends are either really into anime, or not at all. And that’s a shame, because Michael Arias directed something special when he took Taiyo Matsumoto’s manga to the big screen. Tekkonkinkreet is anime that transcends anime. It’s a complex movie that is sad and touching and one of those rare pieces of art that I appreciate more with each viewing.

The movie begins with “Gramps” asking his grandchildren, “Black” and “White,” the following question as White strikes a match:

What is it about the fire, so calm and peaceful, but inside all power and destruction? It’s hiding something, just like people do.
Sometimes, you have to get close to find out what’s inside. Sometimes, you need to get burned to see the truth.

From there, Tekkonkinkreet is out the gates and never lets up (the two young boys, orphans, seemingly fly over city during the title sequence).

The central premise of the film as that these two brothers (“stray cats”), must survive and adapt in a changing city. They’re tough kids — the rulers of Treasure Town — and they’re willing to fight anyone who seeks to impose a new vision on their home. Black and White’s story is about the importance of familial bonds, good vs. evil, free will vs. destiny, the loss of innocence and the search for inner peace. It’s a fantasy film that in many ways feels real. Some of that is due to camera techniques and art direction, but primarily it’s because of the care that went into crafting the characters. Like the first five minutes of Pixar’s Up, Arias’ Tekkonkinkreet is an animated film that just might bring a tear or two to your eyes.

One of my favorite moments comes when White describes his relationship with Black to a cop, Sawada:

White is missing lots of screws. I need screws for my heart. God made me broken.
Black, too. He’s broken. He’s missing screws too — for his heart. But I got all the screws Black needs. I got every one. I got every one.

We’re all broken. We’re imperfect. We’re fallible. If we’re being honest, we all know that we’re missing some screws. But there is someone out there — a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, sister, or another loved one — who has the missing parts we need to keep us from falling apart. Some of us need that other half to keep us from visiting the darker parts of our nature. We think we’re in charge, but in reality it is that other person who has all the power because they bring out the best in us and temper our less desirable traits.

If you’ve never seen Tekkonkinkreet before, I highly suggest checking it out. Try and figure out who the “Black” or “White” is in your life, and then share it with them. Hopefully, you’ll both enjoy it as much as I did.

Tekkonkinkreet Black White
Black and White have one of the best brotherly bonds ever portrayed on the big screen. Period.

 

 

Man of Steel Trailer: Harbinger of an epic film

Man of Steel

The new Man of Steel trailer is amazing. It is flat out awesome. Every aspect of what has been teased over the last few months indicates that Zack Snyder has directed something that aims for epic and in all likelihood will succeed. Snyder proved that he could handle a cynical take on Superman (i.e., Dr. Manhattan in the underrated Watchman), and all the early indicators are that he will deliver with the real deal.

First, let’s look at Jonathan Kent:

Pa Kent: You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he’s going to change the world.

Pa Kent (Teaser Trailer 2): You’re not just anyone. One day you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is — good character or bad — he’s going to change the world.

Bravo. Good and Evil exist — and not only do we have the power to choose the person we become, but we must choose. Moral clarity out of the gates is reassuring. The world is clearly a messy place (e.g., Should Clark have let children die to protect his secret?), but deep down we know what is right and just and what must be done.

Growing up, I was never a huge fan of Superman and I never could quite pinpoint why. He was just “boring.” I didn’t realize it for quite some time, but Jor El explains the situation clearly:

Jor El (Teaser Trailer 1): You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

Superman is the ideal we all strive for, but will never attain. He sets the bar for all other superheroes. He has nearly-unlimited power, but he chooses to serve others. He is so much more than the humans he walks among, and yet he loves and protects and cares for them. And perhaps the truth is I didn’t dislike Superman because he is actually boring; I disliked him because he reminded me of just how flawed I was. And am. And always will be. Superman is that moment in time when after months of denying something you know to be true you look in the mirror and it’s there — there’s no escaping it — and the truth just stares you in the eye and forces you to confront the issue or fight that much harder to live in denial. Zack Snyder gets it, and he wisely made sure to include it in the script:

Clark Kent: My father believed that if the world found out who I realize was, they’d reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?

When I first saw an image of Superman in cuffs and flanked by U.S. servicemen my instinct was to become skeptical. Would Snyder go the route of so many other Hollywood directors and portray the U.S. government as the “bad” guy for a good portion of the flick? I thought about it, and decided not to write on the issue because everything I’ve seen from him suggests he’s smarter than that. There had to be a better angle. After having viewed the trailer, I’m glad I held off.

The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.

Man of Steel 1

If Zack Synder plays his cards right he will have a hit movie on his hands that millions of its critics will hate for reasons they won’t be able to comprehend until years after the fact, if at all.

The Dark Knight Rises: A conservative review

Christopher Nolan has set the bar mighty high for whomever follows him on the Batman franchise. The Dark Knight Rises might not be the perfect movie, but it’s a superhero film that transcends almost all other superhero films. It succeeds much more often than it fails, and for that Nolan should be proud of what he’s accomplished.

Where was Christopher Nolan supposed to go after the success of The Dark Knight? How could he have possibly topped the second installment of his Batman trilogy? There really weren’t many options, except to make a superhero movie that was more than a superhero movie — and for that Nolan apparently turned to Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. The director went for something truly epic — he shot for the moon — and while we can debate whether or not he actually hit his target, it seems pretty obvious that he made it to the stars.

After the second trailer for The Dark Knight Rises came out on May Day, I hoped that years from now political junkies would hear Bane say, “When Gotham burns, you have my permission to die,” and immediately associate him with Keynesian economics and the totalitarian tendencies that spring forth from it. The movie didn’t disappoint, as Bane displays classical training in the rhetoric of leftist dictator-goons throughout history. And if Bane comes across as a Marxist revolutionary, then Selena Kyle is the useless idiot who buys into his snake oil.

Take note of Catwoman, as she displays jealousy, greed, envy and a sense of entitlement all in one minute conversation with Bruce.

Selena Kyle: You don’t get to judge me just because you were born in the master bedroom of Wayne Manor. … I started out doing what I had to. When you’ve done what you’ve had to they’ll never let you do what you want to.

Bruce Wayne: Start fresh.

Selena Kyle: There is no fresh start in today’s world. Any 12 year old with a cell phone can find out what you did. … Everything sticks.

Bruce: Is that how you justify stealing?

Selena Kyle: I take what I need from those who have more than enough. I don’t stand on the shoulders of people with less. … I think I do more to help someone than most of the people in this room — than you.

Bruce Wayne: Do you think maybe you’re assuming a little too much? …

Selena Kyle: You think all of this can last? There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it does you and your friends are going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.

Ms. Kyle wants to live in a world where she doesn’t have to suffer the consequences of her actions. She made mistakes, and instead of owning up to them she doubles down on a path of deceit. It is only when Ms. Kyle moves in the ideological direction of Mr. Wayne that her fortunes begin to change. Revolutionaries like Bane only bring misery and terror, while men like Wayne offer order, true hope, redemption and selflessness.

Perhaps no better part sums up the difference between Bruce Wayne and his leftist adversaries than the rising climax. The cynical, class-warfare spewing Catwoman intellectually aligned with Bane throughout most of the movie, a man who sought to destroy an entire city to realize his goals. Bruce, on the other hand, proves that he is willing to sacrifice himself for an entire city.

Selena Kyle: Sorry to keep letting you down. Come with me. Save yourself. You don’t owe these people any more. You’ve given them everything.

Bruce: Not everything. Not yet.

Within minutes, Kyle knows that Bruce is the better man, and she falls for him. By the end of The Dark Knight Rises, the man she accused of “living so large” and leaving “so little for the rest of us” has proven himself her superior mentally, physically and spiritually, and she shows her epiphany in dramatic fashion.

As I said before, The Dark Knight trilogy will be, on many levels, the Bane of liberal moviegoers’ existence. No matter what Christopher Nolan does—no matter what he says from this day forward—he can never take back these films (thank God). It’s a gold mine of conservative values waiting to be explored. And, while Nolan’s personal politics might not be conservative, he at least gave the worldview a fair shake. In Hollywood, that’s all conservatism needs to starts winning hearts and minds. Besides, when The Village Voice hates a movie, I know I have something to work with.

If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, check it out while it’s in theaters. Love it or hate it, it’s a movie that’s going to be talked about for a long time.

Robert Downey Jr.’s politics: A lesson for liberal Hulks

Liberals are good at revising history, as they now attempt to do with news that Robert Downey Jr. attended a Barack Obama fundraiser. A trip down memory lane reveals they weren’t so warm and fuzzy about him when his politics were in question.

With the news that Robert Downey Jr. attended George Clooney’s $40,000 fundraiser earlier in the week, liberals incredulously asked how conservatives could have ever thought he was a Republican or perhaps even (gasp!) a conservative. As we all know, conservatives are racists, bigots and homophobes, right? Regardless, I will spell it out in ways even liberals with a mind like the Hulk can understand.

People put their children’s drawings on their refrigerator. They put cards from loved ones, their daily calendar and things they’re proud of on it. They put images on it that they don’t mind seeing every time they go to the get something to eat or drink. And so, when GQ Magazine, a piece of liberal propaganda disguised as a men’s magazine, is invited into Downey’s home and finds a picture of him with George and Laura Bush, it sends a message.

There are photos of Downey and Susan taped above the refrigerator: with President Bush and Mrs. Bush; with Tom Cruise, Mrs. Cruise, and Suri in a group hug on-set in Hawaii. The week’s schedule, in brightly colored fonts for easy reading, hangs from the bulletin board—yet another magazine interview tonight, rerecording dialogue tomorrow, a shooting day on Wednesday—along with Downey’s son’s soccer-playoff schedule.

In the liberal mind, such an act would already be considered heresy. But as with any case built on circumstantial evidence, there needed to be more. And so, we introduced the infamous New York Times interview, where Robert Downey Jr. told them that his time spent in prison had a profound impact on his politics; Downey’s liberal Hollywood critics responded by trying to convince people that he really just wanted to swim in Olympic-sized pools of gold like Scrooge McDuck.

“His values are pure Republican values … He’s a serious materialist. He loves the great clothes, the beautiful house, the cool cars. He’s a ‘protect the rich’ guy. Why should the rich have to pay for this or that? The people who have it should keep it, and the people who don’t have it shouldn’t complain.”

When Hollywood liberals start attacking the man, it sends up red flags to the world that they have him on notice: Shut up and keep quiet, “re-educate” yourself, or the character assassination will continue. Now that Downey has given up cold, hard cash to Obama, is he still a materialist? Probably not, since once liberals “evolve” their past is forgotten about the next day.

But let us dig even further back, to see what may have set off our liberal friends to begin with. Perhaps it had something to do with the launch of Andrew Breitbart’s websites, created precisely because Hollywood is the kind of place where in order to network with the elite it’s almost mandatory you attend functions like … a George Clooney, $40,000 a plate Democrat fundraiser. As rumors swelled that Downey was a Republican, the press sought answers. He refused to give them:

Breitbart simply refers to it as a continuous politics and culture posting board, and its underlying, unifying aim is just as simple: “Our goal is to create an atmosphere of tolerance, something that does not exist in this town,” he says. It’s kind of funny and ironic to read about how conservatives are being encouraged to come out of the closet.

Most amusing is the reaction from the agent for Robert Downey, Jr., who is believed to be a closet conservative … his publicist will neither confirm nor deny it, saying only, “We unfortunately have no comment, as RDJ does not comment on political matters.” (Opelika-Auburn News, Entering Stage Right, Jan. 6, 2009.)

There is no downside to announcing your political allegiance in Hollywood. None. Conservatives expect artists to be Democrats at this point. Generally, a politically mum A-list Hollywood star in the face of rumors they are conservative is another indicator that they might not fall into line with the “acceptable” positions of the industry’s power players. Refrain from comment, and liberal rags find it “most amusing.”

As I said before, can you blame Robert for not wanting to talk? The guy probably runs the gamut on any number of public policy issues, but was attacked by liberals for either a.) saying his time in prison taught him some lessons that were incompatible with liberalism, and b.) that he’d rather not talk politics and would not do so through his agent, at least as of 2009.

Now that Downey has attended a Barack Obama fundraiser, liberals would have us believe that delusional conservatives created the idea of a Hollywood star that was one of them out of pure desperation. Not true. As much as they want to deny it, liberal attacks on the man were often the catalyst for the conservatives who defended him.

Related: Robert Downey Jr. ambushed over politics: Reporters want Iron Man to be a liberal activist

Robert Downey Jr. was at the Republican National Convention in 2008, and yet liberal message boards wonder where anyone ever got the idea he was a Republican. Maybe he should just start the “Iron Man” Party and make everyone happy.

Related: Iron Man 3: Americans will love it, but so will moviegoers who hate America

Related: Samuel L. Jackson to Robert Downey Jr. circa 2008: I hope you die in a hurricane