REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER

CAST

Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher)
Luke Grimes (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane)
Jake McDorman (Limitless TV)
Cory Hardrict (Crazy/Beautiful)
Navid Negahban (Charlie Wilson’s War)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars)
Sam Jaeger (Hart’s War)
Sammy Sheik (Nikita)
Mido Hamada (Homeland)
Eric Close (Dark Skies)
Brian Hallisay (The Client List)
Leonard Roberts (Buffy)
Marnette Patterson (Starship Troopers 3)
Max Charles (The Neighbors)
Jonathan Groff (Frozen)
Owain Yeoman (The Belko Experiment)
Clint Eastwood (The Mule)

Growing up in Texas, Chris Kyle is taught by his father how to shoot a rifle and hunt deer. Years later, Kyle has become a ranch hand and rodeo cowboy, and returns home early, to find his girlfriend in bed with another man. After telling her to leave, he is mulling it over with his brother when he sees news coverage of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and decides to enlist in the Navy. He qualifies for special training and becomes a U.S. Navy SEALs sniper.Kyle meets Taya Studebaker at a bar, and the two soon marry. He is sent to Iraq after the September 11 attacks. His first kills are a woman and boy who attacked U.S. Marines with a Russian made RKG-3 anti-tank grenade. Kyle is visibly upset by the experience but later earns the nickname “Legend” for his many kills. Assigned to hunt for the al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Kyle interrogates a family whose father offers to lead the SEALs to “The Butcher”, al-Zarqawi’s second-in-command. The plan goes awry when The Butcher captures the father and his son, killing them while Kyle is pinned down by a sniper using a Romanian PSL sniper rifle. This sniper goes by the name Mustafa and is an Olympic Games medalist from Syria. Meanwhile, the insurgents issue a bounty on Kyle.Kyle returns home to his wife and the birth of his son. He is distracted by memories of his war experiences and by Taya’s concern for them as a couple – she wishes he would focus on his home and family.Kyle leaves for a second tour and is promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Involved in a shootout with The Butcher, he helps in killing him. When he returns home to a newborn daughter, Kyle becomes increasingly distant from his family. On Kyle’s third tour, Mustafa seriously injures a unit member, Ryan “Biggles” Job, and the unit is evacuated back to base. When they decide to return to the field and continue the mission, another SEAL, Marc Lee, is killed by gunfire.Guilt compels Kyle to undertake a fourth tour, and Taya tells him that she may not be there when he returns. Back in Iraq, Kyle is assigned to kill Mustafa, who has been sniping U.S. Army combat engineers building a barricade. Kyle’s sniper team is placed on a rooftop inside enemy territory. Kyle spots Mustafa and takes him out with a risky long distance shot at 2,100 yards (1,920 m), but this exposes his team’s position to numerous armed insurgents. In the midst of the firefight, and low on ammunition, Kyle tearfully calls Taya and tells her he is ready to come home. A sandstorm provides cover for a chaotic escape in which Kyle is injured and almost left behind.After Kyle gets back, on edge and unable to adjust fully to civilian life, he is asked by a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist if he is haunted by all the things he did in war. When he replies that it is “all the guys he couldn’t save” that haunt him, the psychiatrist encourages him to help severely wounded veterans in the VA hospital. After that Kyle gradually begins to adjust to home life. Years later, on February 2, 2013, Kyle says goodbye to his wife and family as he leaves in good spirits to spend time with a veteran at a shooting range. An on-screen subtitle reveals: “Chris Kyle was killed that day by a veteran he was trying to help”, followed by archive footage of crowds standing along the highway for his funeral procession. More are shown attending his memorial service.This film, contrary to some reviews, does not glorify war nor killing. It doesn’t hide the horrors of war, and certainly doesn’t romanticize it, nor the toll it takes on the man and his life, his relationship with the civil world. It is brutal and ugly, because that’s what war is. Something one forgets about, the reality of it, the real men who fight for everyone’s safety and liberty. Bradley Cooper is remarkable in his portray of Chris Kyle, especially the way he holds his jaws, mouth and lips.

REVIEW: TAKEN (2002)

CAST

Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Eric Close (American Sniper)
Catherine Dent (Terminator: TSCC)
Joel Gretsch (V)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Tine Holmes (Half Nelson)
Steve Burton (Cyber Tracker)
Julie Benz (Angel)
Stacy Grant (Shanghai Noon)
Jason Gray-Stanford (Bones)
Michael Moriarty (Courage Under Fire)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Julie Ann Emery (Fargo)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
James McDaniel (Sleepy Hollow)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Willie Garson (Stargate SG.1)
Ryan Hurst (Bates Motel)
James Kirk (X-Men 2)
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek)
Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins)
Brenda James (Slither)
Chad Morgan (The Purge: Anarchy)
Jonathan Young (Sanctuary)
Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Emily Holmes (The Wicker Man)
Erin Karpluk (Being Erica)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Desmond Harrington (Ghost Ship)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Emily Bergl (Carrie 2)
Britt Irvin (V)
Camille Sullivan (The Birdwatcher)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Gabrielle Rose (Dark Angel)
Roger Cross (Arrow)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Colleen Winton (Van Helsing)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Justin Chatwin (Taking Lives)
Gwynyth Walsh (Van Helsing)
Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Connor Widdows (Battlestar Galactica)
Laurie Murdoch (Spotlight)
Enid-Raye Adams (Good Boys)
Andrew Jackson (Sea Wolf)
Mark Hildreth (V)
Patrick Gallagher (Glee)
Aaron Pearl (Lost In Space)
Nolan Gerard Funk (Truth or Dare)
Kurt Evans (Izombie)
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones)
Frederick Koehler (Death Race)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Smallville)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Matthew Walker (Highlander: The Series)
Devin Douglas Drewitz ( I Love You, Beth Cooper)
Kendall Cross (Caprica)
Bill Marchant (Stargate SG.1)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Don Thompson (Watchmen)

From none other than visionary Steven Spielberg comes TAKEN (2002), which I first saw during it’s initial run on the BBC. I admire the scope, ambition, and emotion attached to this entertaining mini series.It starts off in 1944, with Russell Keys, along with his bomber crew, being ‘taken’ by an alien spacecraft during their WWII mission. The crew is experimented on, but Keys is essentially the lone survivor. Keys returns home with PTSD, not due to war, but due to the alien experience. This compels him to leave his wife and child to solve the mystery. Eventually, the aliens take Russell’s teen son Jesse Keys. The aliens obviously see an internal resolve in the Keys’ men that distinguishes them from the rest of the human race.
A second parallel story starts around 1947, and involves the lone survivor of a downed alien spacecraft that manages to take human form as “John” , who seeks refuge on a Texas farm owned by Sally Clarke, a hard-working waitress and single mother of two. John and Sally bond and she is impregnated, leading to a human-alien hybrid Jacob Clarke (superbly played by then-newcomer Anton Yelchin, now known for being the new Chekhov in the re-booted Star Trek franchise).The final parallel story also starts in 1947 in the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, where the local Air Force has found John’s downed ship and his 4 alien compadres who did not survive. Backed by the government, the military takes over the super-secret project, which starts off being briefly led by Colonel Campbell and is soon taken over by his ambitious son-in-law Captain Owen Crawford (brilliantly played by Joel Gretsch), military intelligence officer. Gretsch perfectly essays the role of megalomaniacal Crawford, who runs the project with unapologetic brio. I really felt that Gretsch’s character carried the first few episodes (spanning 1947 to 1962) with strong support from the other actors.
Taken’s first half  storytelling is strong, a perfect balance of science fiction, politics, speculation, and drama. One really buys into the premise that these goings-on could have actually happened. It’s definitely not fiction that many an American have reported UFO sightings and alien experiences over the years, and this miniseries is one of the better attempts at relaying this message to the viewer.
With the second half of the mini series the puzzle pieces finally start to come together to an interesting conclusion. Emily Burgl (as Lisa Clarke) and Andy Kaufman (as Charlie Keys) were commendable as the adult versions of the last respective offspring of the Clarke-Keys clans, the main highlight of the second half was  was the performance of newcomer Dakota Fanning (who plays Allie) whose wonderful narration is a key to the series overall success. She stole the show from all of her adult counterparts. I would definitely recommend the miniseries based on ambition and overall scope and the tightly woven storytellingthe show demonstrates. It’s an epic Sci-Fi story that is intriguing and at times touching. It wasthe series that made Dakota Fanning a star.