Saturday, January 30, 2016

Movie Review of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi recounts how a team of six CIA contractors attempted to rescue the American ambassador and his few American and Libyan defenders when terrorists attacked him in Benghazi in 2012. With terrorists overrunning the diplomatic compound and engaging them in firefights in the streets, the contractors realize they have to go defend their own CIA compound, which gets pounded by wave after wave of attacks.

Director Michael Bay has achieved a “you are there” feel, giving the uncanny impression of actually being there in Benghazi. One can imagine the smells and the oppressive heat in this chaotic north African city. The dangers of this failed state are all around these contractors, with different factions setting up roadblocks in ramshackle alleys and shooting people in seemingly random fashion. As they pass armed men in the street, it is not at all clear who are the bad guys and who are people just wanting to defend themselves.

Bay has achieved a mostly unbloody movie (until the end), taking advantage of the action occurring at night and showing the firefights from the view of the night vision devices the Americans use. So although we definitely see terrorists (or Tangos, as they are called) getting shot in the head or in the chest, the depictions are non-gory.

Standout moments are:
-A few kids setting off a bottle rocket near the CIA compound, then later on the terrorists heading for that exact point as they gather to attack.
-CIA diplomats and the station chief acting like fussy office workers while the contractors try to save their lives.
-The most terrifying car chase I’ve ever seen. Remember to yell “Go left” at a certain moment.
-In a surreal scene, a terrorist drives right up to the wall of the CIA compound between firefights. He gets out and prepares to throw a homemade bomb. One of the contractors calmly says, “Don’t do that.”
-More than once, Libyans armed with military rifles pass the Americans on the street. The Americans say, “Who are you?” The Libyans do not answer and keep walking.

I’ve never watched The Office much, but fans of John Krasinski will see he’s made the transition from TV comedy to action movie. And in a surprise, David Giuntoli, the star of GRIMM, shows up as the main bodyguard of the ambassador with important scenes.

13 Hours is based on the book of the same name, which in turn was based on detailed interviews with the survivors. Some people (including some who have not seen the movie) accuse it of being political, but President Obama and Hillary Clinton are never mentioned. This is an incredible true story that should be widely seen. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

NASA: Frequent travel may be required

NASA is now accepting applications for astronauts. You might fly in the International Space Station, two currently unnamed spacecraft being built, or the Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.

“Frequent travel may be required.”


“Distant and near visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20, each eye. The use of glasses is acceptable.”

Hey what? An astronaut with glasses?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Alan Rickman, RIP

Well, what shall we say about Alan Rickman? I loved his deep, British voice that could intimidate so authoritatively. Ironically, he played his character in the science fiction movie Galaxy Quest in a different way. As a washed-up actor who is sick of the alien role he once played in a TV show, he mostly sounds like an ordinary person.

By Grabthar’s hammer, I could listen to his voice all day. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mao the Mighty Have Fallen

If you don’t live in inland China, you may not have heard of the mighty 37 meter-high statue of Mao Zedong, dictator of China from 1949 to 1976. This Brobdingnagian exercise in despot worship towered over the landscape, a veritable colossus in gold (well, gold paint).

Art by Zhang Zhenshi
All the photographs of the statue are copyright,
so here’s the real guy

It took nine months to build. And only a few days to tear down. The official reason had to do with permits, but do current dictators really like monuments to previous ones?

This reminds me of the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...