From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Veteran actor of stage, screen and TV and former US Navy sailor James Tolkan has spent a career playing the hard man. He is known to audiences around the world for his performances in Back to the Future, Top Gun and Problem Child 2, and many more films and TV shows for playing his no-nonsense style of characters, who seem to come from an organic place in his soul. The characters are tough but fair, and have a sense of dignity in them. Tolkan spent a lot of his time on stage in NYC before moving to Hollywood. Most recently, Tolkan worked on the Discovery Channel show Expedition Back to the Future. WATM sat down with Tolkan to learn more about his life, his time in service and what made him become an actor. 

Tolkan’s youth was “very difficult” with his father having spent a lot of time in jail. Tolkan lived in Michigan before his family moved to Chicago. After his parents split when he was 14-years-old, Tolkan lived alone in a basement. “I got up at 5 in the morning to clean a restaurant,” he shared. “I was very unhappy. I was running with a gang and quit school at 15. I lied about my age and got a job with the Chicago Northwestern Railroad with a pick and shovel, which I hated.” His family moved to Tucson the next year and his whole life changed for the better. 

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Tolkan as “Mr. Strickland” with Michael J. Fox and Claudia Wells in Back to the Future. Photo courtesy of necomicons.com.

Tolkan was on a football scholarship at Eastern Arizona College and he got to play a lot of football. He put his name on a list to join the Navy – it was during the Korean War – and Tolkan was competing as an undefeated boxer in the Golden Gloves when he got the call. Tolkan completed boot camp in San Diego. He recalled, “When I went into the Navy, I was in better shape going into boot camp than at the end.” He volunteered for boxing while in the Navy and after his fellow sailors saw him in the ring, he never stood a “midwatch” (midnight to 4am shift) again. Tolkan explained with a laugh, “I was treated royally.”

Tolkan signed up for four years in the Navy and he ran a chow line in San Diego for troops in training and then was set to sail with the USS Sandoval APA-194.  He was sent to Oakland to prepare for ship duty. Tolkan came down with a severe and unknown illness and was sent to the Oakland Naval Hospital. The Navy found an issue with his heart and within a year he was discharged from the service for medical reasons. He shared, “I could have seen the Navy as a career until I got sick….anyway it all worked out.”

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Tolkan (center) with Anthony Edwards (left) and Tom Cruise (right) in Top Gun. Photo courtesy of necomiccons.com.

Tolkan holds onto his experiences in the Navy and he felt like a “very special individual” just having gone to boot camp. He is proud of his service overall. 

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Tolkan as “Stinger” in Top Gun. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.

After his time in the Navy, Tolkan said he floundered around. He did reconnect with his father, having not seen him in seven years. Tolkan spent time in Iowa driving a cattle truck and moving cows all over the country. He shared, “I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was very lost.” He went back to school on the GI Bill at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA. At Coe, he majored in art and minored in music which is when he got interested in acting. He spent two years at Coe and then transferred to the University of Iowa for their large theater department. Tolkan was the big man in the theater department there. 

After six years in college, Tolkan got on a Greyhound bus with $75 in his pocket to go to NYC to be an actor. He said, “I was scared to death and didn’t know what I was getting into, but I did it. It was really terrific. You have to learn to just really go for it.” 

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Tolkan in Sidney Lumet’s Prince of the City. Photo courtesy of TJ Breaton.

Tolkan shared, “I am most happy working in the theater. That is where I am most comfortable. The last play I did on Broadway was David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.” The first play he did on Broadway was a play titled Wait Until Dark. Tolkan played a psychotic killer in the play across from actress Lee Remick and the play ran for two years.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Tolkan with Val Avery in The Amityville Horror. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.

“As a New York actor I said, ‘I am never going to Hollywood til they send for me.’ And when Robert Zemeckis called me to do Back to the Future I said, ‘Ok, this is my chance to go out there and see what’s going on.’ So, I went out and did Back to the Future and Top Gun and I stayed out there for 10 years.” 

He didn’t like working in the movies “by and large.” He shared about his highlights in film, “…with Back to the Future, it was a very small movie — nobody knew it was going to be an enormous thing, but with Top Gun we all knew it was going to be big all the way through. So, I was very confident in Top Gun where Back to the Future was a huge surprise.” He shared about movies, “My favorites are with Sidney Lumet. The great director Sidney Lumet. I did three movies with him, Serpico, Prince of the City and Family Business.” Tolkan recalled his work with Lumet and reflected on the leadership shown by the award-winning director. “I think of Sidney Lumet, he was so disciplined, so brilliant…you would want to emulate him…to work with him was a privilege, he made it a pleasure.”

He describes his experience with director Tony Scott on Top Gun as loose when compared to working with Lumet. Scott would have them do improv scenes, not on the board for the day. He enjoyed working with Scott, it was just different than what Tolkan had experience with. He said, “Tom Cruise was most impressive. I knew he was going to be great right from the beginning.” Tolkan talks of his time on Back to the Future — “Michael J. Fox is the easiest actor I have ever worked with. He is so talented and loose. That movie is still going strong (and that) was 35 years ago.” He enjoyed his experience on WarGames and he joked, “…that was very early in my career…I wasn’t even paid very much, but things changed a little later.” 

Tolkan’s filmography is impressive and his prowess has made him a household name. But when asked what he’s most proud of, his answer is fairly simple: “The fact that I made it through. That I am here living the good life and I survived. That is what I am most proud of. It is not easy…I give thanks every day.”

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Tolkan in Woody Allen’s Love and Death as Napoleon Bonaparte. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Tolkan with Dolph Lundgren (right) and Chelsea Field (left) in Masters of the Universe. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Tolkan with Diane Keaton in Love and Death. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.

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Tolkan with Crispin Glover in Back to the Future. Photo courtesy of IMD

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 9 best Civil War movies

It’s been more than 150 years since Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Commander Ulysses S. Grant at Wilmer McLean’s Appomattox home, but the legacy of the Civil War still lingers.

From the recent controversies over Confederate memorials to the tens of thousands of hobbyists who dress in grey and blue every summer to reenact key battles, Americans continue to wrestle with the causes and ramifications of the War Between the States.

These nine films, which cover the conflict from the hallways of Congress to the scorched earth of Bleeding Kansas, are packed with insights and (usually) authentic historical details. Just as importantly, they’re guaranteed to entertain.


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1. Gone with the Wind

Widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, this four-hour epic won 10 Academy Awards, broke box office records, and introduced the myth of the Lost Cause to generations of moviegoers. For the role of Scarlett O’Hara, producer David O. Selznick considered nearly every leading lady in Hollywood–from Katharine Hepburn to Tallulah Bankhead to Lana Turner–before settling on Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown English actress. Her iconic performance immortalized the character of the spoiled, strong-willed Southern belle.

To cast Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Selznick had to delay production and give away half his profits. In return, Gable got the most famous exit line in movie history: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hewing closely to Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel, the screenplay features insightful period details (Confederate blockade runners, Carpetbaggers bribing freed slaves for their votes, etc.) and an epic recreation of the burning of Atlanta. While Gone with the Wind has been rightly criticized for misleading viewers about the horrors of slavery, its emotional impact and sweeping scale make it a must-see for anyone interested in the legacy of the Civil War.

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2. Glory

Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of a runaway slave turned soldier in this captivating drama about the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, the first all-black regiment in the history of the US Army. Matthew Broderick stars as Robert Gould Shaw, the white officer who commanded the 54th.

The Confederate Army had recently announced that any captured black Union soldier would be enslaved or killed alongside his white officers, and Shaw had doubts about the unit’s chances for success. But he was impressed by the soldiers’ grit and determination in the face of relentless discrimination and eventually joined their protest to be paid the same as white soldiers.

Tasked with the impossible mission to take Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, Shaw and the men of the 54th fought with incredible courage. Their sacrifice is memorialized in a bronze statue in Boston Common, which inspired screenwriter Kevin Jarre to pay tribute to their story.

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3. Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis spent a full year researching Abraham Lincoln’s life in preparation for his Oscar-winning turn as the 16th president of the United States. The result is a tender, lived-in portrayal of the man behind the myth–from his slumped shoulders and high-pitched Illinois twang to his unwavering sense of conviction.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner draws on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals to dramatize the political machinations involved in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln knew that the permanent abolition of slavery was necessary to the nation’s survival but had to race against the clock to get the bill passed before the South could negotiate peace.

By revealing the drama and intrigue behind one of Congress’s most significant pieces of legislation, director Steven Spielberg offers a civics lesson as thrilling as it is necessary.

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4. Gettysburg

Originally planned as a TV miniseries, this four-hour epic based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Killer Angels stars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. Director James Maxwell convinced the National Park Service to allow him to film on the actual Gettysburg battlefield, and thousands of Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to recreate crucial moments in the three-day campaign, including the assault on Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.

The film, like the novel, focuses on the decisions and actions of key players including General Robert E. Lee (Sheen), Lieutenant General James Longstreet (Berenger), and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Daniels). Daniels, in particular, delivers a rousing performance as the commander of 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose stout defense of Little Round Top against repeated Confederate assaults helped to turn the tide of the battle and the war. With its massive scale, brilliant cinematography, and rigorous attention to historical detail, Gettysburg does justice to the deadliest battle in US history.

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5. The Civil War

When it was first broadcast on five consecutive nights in September 1990, this documentary miniseries drew an average of 14 million viewers per night–the largest audience in the history of PBS. Over the course of nine episodes, director Ken Burns and his team of researchers, video editors, historians, and actors unspooled the full story of the Civil War, from John Brown’s uprising at Harper’s Ferry to Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of John Wilkes Booth.

Inspired by Matthew Brady’s photographs of the conflict, Burns used a panning and zooming technique (thereafter known as the “Ken Burns effect”) to bring to life roughly 16,000 still images. Excerpts from the letters and diaries of Robert E. Lee, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and less-known historical figures such as Mary Chestnut and George Templeton Strong provide an intimate perspective on large-scale events like the Battle of Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

The Civil War reignited popular interest in America’s bloodiest conflict and helped to pave the way for bingeable TV documentaries such as The Jinx and OJ: Made in America.

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6. Cold Mountain

Based on Charles Frazier’s blockbuster novel of the same name, this Anthony Minghella-directed epic is the story of W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a Confederate deserter trying to make his way home to North Carolina in the final months of the Civil War. Gravely wounded in the Battle of the Crater and recovering in a field hospital, Inman decides to leave the war when he reads a letter from his beloved, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), imploring him to do just that.

While Inman and the other Cold Mountain men have been off fighting, Ada has been struggling to work her deceased father’s farm. Eventually she’s helped in her efforts by Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger in an Oscar-winning performance), an unlettered woman well-versed in the hardscrabble life of a subsistence farmer.

The film brilliantly interweaves Inman’s encounters with all manner of desperate characters–from ribald preachers to villainous Confederate Home Guards –and scenes of Ada and Ruby learning to fend for themselves. Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, and Jack White round out the all-star cast of this story of war-torn country and lovers.

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7. Ride with the Devil

Starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel, and Jeffrey Wright, this underrated film is based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel Woe to Live On. Maguire stars as young Missouri farmer Jake Roedel, who joins the Bushwhackers, a pro-Confederate guerrilla force, when his German immigrant father is killed by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas.

Alongside his best friend Jack Bull Chiles (Ulrich), Roedel roams the border between Kansas and Missouri, skirmishing with Union regulars and irregulars. But when the Bushwhackers, led by militiaman William Quantrill (John Ales), raid Lawrence, Kansas and massacre 150 unarmed men and boys, Roedel must ask himself where his loyalties truly lie.

Jeffrey Wright delivers a stellar performance as a freed slave who fights for the South, and director Ang Lee brings deep sensitivity and impressive historical accuracy to this searing portrayal of a largely forgotten chapter of the Civil War.

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8. The Horse Soldiers

This John Ford-directed Civil War Western is loosely based on the real story of Grierson’s Raid, a daring Union cavalry incursion some six hundred miles into hostile territory that set the stage for the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

John Wayne stars as Colonel John Marlowe, a railroad construction engineer who leads his men on a mission to destroy a railroad and supply depot in Newton’s Station, Mississippi. When a Southern belle overhears the brigade’s plans, Marlowe is forced to take her and her slave, Lukey, captive. Legendary tennis ace Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title, was cast as Lukey but objected to the character’s scripted stereotypical “Negro” dialect. Ford had the dialogue changed at her request.

With Ford’s dynamic visual style and a well-matched rivalry between Wayne’s colonel and William Holden as a regimental surgeon haunted by the horrors of warfare, The Horse Soldiers captures the drama and audacity of one of the war’s most brilliant campaigns.

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9. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Inspired by real-life rumors of lost Confederate gold, this epic spaghetti Western follows three gunslingers across a southwestern landscape ravaged by the Civil War. Clint Eastwood is Blondie (The Good), a lone-wolf bounty hunter with a sense of justice; Lee van Cleef is Angel Eyes (The Bad), a cold-blooded mercenary who never lets a contract killing go unfulfilled; and Eli Wallach is Tuco (The Ugly), a voluble Mexican bandit wanted for a long list of crimes.

As these drifters cross and double-cross each other in pursuit of 0,000 in buried treasure, Union and Confederate forces clash for control of the New Mexico Territory. In director Sergio Leone’s vision of the Civil War, neither side fights with honor. Greed, violence, and stupidity rule the day. With brilliant cinematography and an iconic score by Ennio Morricone, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the 20th century’s most unique and influential films.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ava DuVernay sent her dress to a Marine wife for the Ball

When Ciara Hester, wife of a U.S. Marine, tweeted to Ava DuVernay (Salem, When They See Us), she had no idea the powerhouse director would respond — let alone send a gift.

Hester complimented DuVernay’s red carpet look and said she wanted one like it for the Marine Corps Ball. To her surprise, DuVernay replied asking for her mailing address so she could ship the gown right over.


OMG @ava I need this dress for the Marine Corp Ball. #SheWoreItBest #ShowStopper #TuesdayThoughtspic.twitter.com/sqcIRukFiG

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The gown, in a perfect shade of Marine Corps red, arrived in time for the Marine Corps Ball, an exclusive event steeped in tradition and pride. It’s probably one of the biggest events in the military. I literally don’t even know if the other branches, including the branch I served in, care about their balls birthdays?

Like a real life fairy God mother. Thank you @ava for your thoughtfulness and kindness. I had an amazing night and I felt amazing. #honor #marinecorpsbirthday #USMC #Marinespic.twitter.com/FjZWXTAE2Q

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The Wilmington, North Carolina, couple were all smiles at the event, with Ciara beaming in a dress that not only fit her perfectly but had pockets (which, we should all know by now, is a very big deal).

I had no clue it had pockets till it arrived. Certainly loved it even more. (Couldn’t have thought that was possible either )

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This isn’t the first time celebrities have shown their support for the Marine Corps Ball — many have been known to accept — or request — invitations to attend the ball, including Ronda Rousey and Linda Hamilton. Elon Musk was invited to speak at one, where he was visibly touched by the heroism and sacrifices of the service members in the room.

You wore it well, @CiCihstr! Hope you had a night as lovely as you. xo!https://twitter.com/annaphillipstv/status/1198055140651130880 …

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It just goes to show how a small gesture can have such a big impact. This kind of generosity is a reminder of how lucky we as a military community are to have the support of our country.

Shout out — and gratitude — to Ava DuVernay to supporting one of our own.

Articles

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators

Last week rapper Nicki Minaj performed a concert in Angola, which is not necessarily a big deal except she reportedly received $2 million dollars for the show from Unitel, a mobile phone company owned by the family of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. Dos Santos has been in power in Angola for 36 years and is widely considered a dictator.


Minaj posted photos of herself with the President’s daughter Isabel dos Santos on her Instagram, saying:

“Oh no big deal…she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world. (At least that’s what I was told by someone b4 we took this photo) Lol. Yikes!!!!! GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!!”

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

According to an open letter to Minaj from the The Human Rights Foundation, the Dos Santos family make their money through “exploiting Angola’s diamond and oil wealth to amass an illegitimate fortune while maintaining control over all branches of the government, the military, and civil society … it his policy to harass, imprison, or kill politicians, journalists, and activists who protest his rule.” Minaj performed the show anyway, which she has a right to do. There are no limitations for visiting or working in Angola.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
. . . unless you’re an Angolan diamond miner. Then you’re not allowed to stop working.

There is still the stigma of legitimizing what is one of the top most corrupt governments in the world (the most in southern Africa). But Nicki Minaj is not the first star to perform for a questionable government. Here’s a rundown of a few other A-listers who’ve been willing to make despot’s toes tap:

1. Jennifer Lopez -Berdymukhamedov’s Turkmenistan

“We wish you the very, very, happiest birthday,” Lopez said to Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov before singing to him at a huge celebration in his central Asian country.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
Sparkly outfits are par for the course when serenading someone who built a gold statue of himself.

Human Rights Watch calls the Berdymukhamedov regime “one of the most repressive in the world, marked by new levels of repression.” Berdymukhamedov seized power in 2007 after the only person more mad than he is, Saparmurat Niyazov, died. (Niyazov changed his language’s word for bread to his mother’s name, renamed the month of September after the book he wrote, and once tried to build a permanent structure made out of ice in the middle of the desert). Berdymukhamedov proceeded to honor himself with a giant bronze and gold statue of his likeness in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat.

2. Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Usher, Bon Jovi and 50 Cent – Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya

Leaked diplomatic cables confirm Queen Bey and Company performed gigs at parties thrown by Qaddafi’s sons Hannibal and Mutassim in Italy and St. Barths. All four claim they donated their fees to earthquake relief in Haiti. Also, Lindsay Lohan was there.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
It was that kind of party.

Hannibal escaped Libya during the civil war that ousted his father. He was briefly taken captive in Lebanon this month but was set free soon after. Mutassim got his around the same time as his father, when he was captured by Libyan rebels outside of Sirte. The rebels stabbed him in the throat.

3. Nelly Furtado – Also Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya

Around the same time as Beyoncé’s work with the Qaddafi family came out, Furtado self-identified on Twitter. She was paid $1 million to perform for the family at an Italian hotel in 2007. (Which seems remarkable because few can name two Nelly Furtado songs without googling her, and the Qaddafis liked her enough to buy an entire concert.) Still, Furtado wasn’t Colonel Qaddafi’s true love. We all know who that was:

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
Hint: It’s not the Cleveland Browns.

The singer promised to give the money away to an unnamed charity. In 2012, she released a song called Arab Spring.

4. Michael Jackson – King Hamad’s Bahrain

It’s hard to call a U.S. ally a dictatorship, but while half their bicameral legislature features elected officials, the other half is appointed by the King who can rule by decree. When the late King of Pop fled there in 2005 after being acquitted of child molestation charges, the Khalifa family provided for him in exchange for a private show and a recorded album.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
While we’re on the subject, can we talk about why some pop stars start dressing like dictators?

While the singer took the money from the dictator, he never made good on the promise of a performance or a recorded album, so maybe Jackson was performing a service by swindling the monarch.

5. Sting – Karimov’s Uzbekistan

In 2009, Sting performed for a man who’s best known for boiling his enemies alive. Islam Karimov’s rule was celebrated via a festival funded and planned by his daughter, Gulnara Karimova, the “Uzbek Princess.”

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
Uzbek dictator Islam Karim shaking hands with one of the few guys on the planet who scare him.

The Uzbek regime is the dictatorship likened closest to North Korea. Karimov is so power mad, he sees his daughter’s popularity as a threat, jailing her and her family in her home. Sting accepted a $2 million payment for his performance. Sting refused to apologize, saying he believed that boycotts only isolate dictator-ruled countries. Karimov banned Sting’s music shortly afterward because the Police alum called him a dictator.

6. Lionel Richie – Qaddafi’s Libya. Again.

Richie was the first to perform for the dictator’s family inside Libyan borders, though it was a celebration of Qaddafi surviving a U.S. attack on his compound in Tripoli, in front of the bombed-out compound which Qaddafi never rebuilt. The singer has never spoken about the performance.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

7. James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers – Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire

Sese Seko put on a festival celebrating his rule in what he called Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1974. The dictator, who would go on to embezzle $5 billion, put up the cost of the Zaire 74 Festival, which was promoted by famed boxing promoter Don King as part of the build up to the Mohammed ali-George Foreman fight (dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle”).

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

8. Kanye West – Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan

The rapper was hired to perform at the wedding of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson. The former Russian Soviet Republic is sharply criticized by human rights organizations for its serious violations and deteriorating situation.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
If there’s any pop star who actually has a personality cult like a dictator, it’s probably Kanye.

Yeezy was paid a reported $3 million for his appearance, which was recorded on Twitter and Instagram. Kanye West was able to express himself at the mic, unlike the rest of Kazakhstan, a nation suffering a harsh and unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression and political plurality with the imprisonment of outspoken opposition and civil society activists.

9. Mariah Carey – José Eduardo dos Santos’ Angola

Yeah, same dictator, same place. Carey performed in Angola in 2013 at the behest of her manager, Jermaine Dupri, whom she would fire the next year.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

This wasn’t the first time Carey performed for a dictator. In 2010, she publicly apologized for a 2008 New Year’s celebration performance, which is a nice segue to . . .

10. Mariah Carey – Qaddafi’s Libya

She was paid an undisclosed sum for performing for the Qaddafi family at a private residence in St. Barth’s. As part of  her penance, she reminded everyone how much money she regularly gives to charity even as she pocketed her payment and released a statement:

“I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for, I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately we as artists are to be held accountable.”

Indeed.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 of the top reasons ‘Cobra Kai’ is the same as Marine boot camp

If you’re a veteran and you’ve watched Cobra Kai, then you already know what we’re talking about. The new series premiered on YouTube Red earlier this month and we cannot be more excited for an inside look at the training that goes on in the infamous karate dojo. But Marines who watch this may see some lessons similar to what they learned in boot camp.


Johnny Lawrence re-opens the karate dojo that taught him so much to teach the current generation the brand of karate he once learned — and the life lessons that came with it. As the series progresses, he teaches his students each of the three main lessons of the dojo and we can’t help but see the similarities between his lessons and the ones we got in the Corps.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

You also learn to not be a coward.

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You learn how to fight

Obviously, when you go to a karate dojo, this is what you go to learn. In the Corps, you’ll also learn a form of martial arts. Their applicable uses may vary, however.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

He even makes his students clean the place before they leave.

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“Incentive” training

Sensei Johnny Lawrence treats his students like recruits (which they are) and acts like a drill instructor — minus the frog voice and screaming in someone’s face. He punishes his students the same way a DI would their recruits, by subjecting them to increased physical training until they learn their lesson.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

He’s that really tough father figure who will constantly call you names and make you feel like crap.

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The instructor is tough

He’s unrelenting in his rigid attitude, going as far as denouncing the existence of things like asthma and peanut allergies. At no point during the series does he ever lighten up on any of his students. He may become demonstrate compassion with some, but only after they’ve earned their place in his dojo.

There is a slight difference, though. Drill instructors never stop hating you, even after you’ve earned your title of “Marine.”

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Pretty much sums up the whole experience of Marine boot camp.

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The lessons are essentially the same

Cobra Kai teaches three lessons: Strike hard, strike fast, and have no mercy. Sound familiar? These are almost generalizations of lessons you learn in boot camp. You learn all of these things, even if your drill instructors don’t directly say it. You learn to take initiative, never give up, and always give 110%.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

He’s unmistakably tough in this picture.

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Turns nerds into total bad asses

One of our favorite scenes in the entire show is when the character Eli is verbally berated by Sensei Lawrence for his nervous personality. He attack’s the kid’s appearance, mocking his surgical scar and sending him running from the dojo. You think he quits, but he comes back – with a mohawk.

After this, he turns into a total carefree badass. That’s exactly what happens to the nerdy, reserved recruits in boot camp who can handle the drill instructor’s mind games: They evolve into fearless badasses.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How to build your own Lego Baby Yoda

The Mandalorian is a big hit for Disney+, largely because of the popularity of “The Child,” better known by the malapropism Baby Yoda. It’s the cutest, most memorable thing we’ve seen in a while, but the need to keep it a secret (Baby Yoda is revealed at the end of the first episode) meant Disney couldn’t have Baby Yoda toys ready to go from day one.

The only Mandalorian Lego set is the AT-ST Raider from episode four, which sadly does not come with a Minifigure of “The Child.” Thankfully, Reddit user u/hachiroku24 stepped in to fill the void with an impressive custom-designed and built Baby Yoda model (complete with a floating carriage!) that’s so accurate that it’s actually pretty damn cute.


Every piece is 100 percent unaltered Lego, even the cloth (from a posable Obi-Wan buildable figure released in 20TK) and Baby Yoda’s signature ears (from a Goblin-themed set released in 2017).

Hachiroku24 also posted a video to YouTube showing the build process.

Lego Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian

www.youtube.com

Reddit being Reddit, another user, u/00squirrel, modeled the build in Bricklink Studio, an online 3D modeling software for Lego designers. It also has Easy Buy, a feature that makes it simple to order all of the necessary pieces from Lego parts purveyors around the world, which definitely beats buying whole sets just for one or two esoteric pieces.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

(BrickLink)

That’s kind of pricey for a 123-piece set, for sure, but considering the DIY origins and lack of any kind of official Baby Yoda set, it’s a great option for builders who just can’t wait to bring “The Child” to life in brick form.

And once you have all of the necessary pieces, the software also has step-by-step building instructions that are as easy to follow as anything Lego has ever printed.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

4 military blunders made by the Mother of Dragons so far in Season 7

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM “DRAGONSTONE,””STORMBORN,” AND “THE QUEEN’S JUSTICE.”


Daenerys Targaryen (played by Emilia Clarke) has had a bad couple of weeks in this penultimate run of “Game of Thrones.” As of the first three episodes in season seven, her forces are well on their way to being defeated in detail.

For the audience, this makes for satisfying conflict and suspense. Most everyone is rooting for fall of Cersei at the hands of Khaleesi, and this will make their final showdown exceptional.

But we can’t help but note that if the Mother of Dragons had studied a little U.S. military history, she might not have suffered such losses. Instead, Daenerys has managed to blunder away large parts of her forces — and her advantage over the Lannisters — and she did it with a number elementary mistakes that cadets at West Point or Annapolis could have pointed out in an instant.

This is not exactly a resume-enhancer for the Commander-in-Chief of the Seven Kingdoms.

Check out her four biggest mistakes since returning to Westeros:

1. Dispersion of Forces

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
Looking at the map, it’s obvious that Daenerys Targaryen’s plan to hit multiple targets was bound to fail.

She made the decision to split her naval forces, trying to do too much at once. She sent part of her fleet to pick up the Dornish Army and to bring them back to Dragonstone, while sending the rest to deliver the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock.

Japan made similar mistakes in the weeks leading up to the Battle of Midway, costing them a light carrier sunk, two fleet carriers rendered combat ineffective due to battle damage or losses, and two other carriers with substantial combat power diverted to a secondary task.

2. Failure to Secure Control of the Sea

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
Map of the Battle of the North Cape…which Daenerys could have accomplished. (Wikimedia Commons)

Knowing that Yara and Theon Greyjoy were fleeing from the person who had usurped the throne of the Iron Islands, Daenerys should have sought to replicate the Battle of the North Cape, in which a pair of convoys was used to draw out the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst to where it could be destroyed by a superior force (or in this case, by the dragons). After that she could transport armies at leisure.

Instead, she didn’t deal with the enemy fleet, and look what happened.

3. Acting with Inadequate Intelligence

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
Joe Rochefort. (U.S. Navy photo)

Daenerys also failed to establish a means to determine enemy intentions, which, as Joe Rochefort proved, can be vital to defeating a foe. As a result, the Tyrells, not to mention their fortune and bannermen, fell to the combined Lannister/Tarly army.

4. Observing Restrictive Rules of Engagement

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
We don’t blame Daenerys, but this ruined city looks better than the Sept of Baelor right about now.

Daenerys did have the option of going straight at Cersei Lannister, but declined due to concerns about civilian casualties.

This has been a subject of controversy during conflicts throughout history. Every military leader is faced with measuring out the cost of “collateral damage” and so, too, must Daenerys — especially when her opponent has no sense of moral restraint. How many more losses will she suffer before she resorts to fighting at Cersei’s level?

Hopefully by now she must know not to underestimate her enemy…especially considering Cersei’s hiding a surface-to-air missile under King’s Landing…

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all
Brace yourselves — the death of at least one dragon is coming. (Game of Thrones screenshot | HBO)

Articles

5 movies to avoid before deployment (especially if you’re infantry)

Hollywood loves to make old fashion bloody war movies that have plenty of entertaining explosions and dramatic death scenes. While entertaining, these can hit pretty close to home for someone who’s been in the fight.


Related: 5 crazy Hollywood hazing scenes that probably happened

The graphic ones can be particularly realistic, but no matter what, they all represent the sucktitude of war.

Here are five you may want to stay away from before deploying to a combat zone.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Known as one of the most authentic and gruesome openings to a film ever, this Steven Spielberg-directed classic put audiences inside the minds of war-hardened characters as they storm the beaches of Normandy.

I think that guy had eggs for breakfast. (Image by Giphy)

2. Casualties of War

Marty McFly, I mean Michael J. Fox, plays an Army soldier who is coerced by Sgt. Tony Meserve (Sean Penn) to take advantage of a Vietnamese hostage-turned-sex-slave. When he refuses, the whole squad turns against him.

We guess they missed those team building exercises stateside. (Image via Giphy)

3. Hamburger Hill

John Irvin’s 1987 war epic depicts one of the most disastrous friendly fire accidents in the military in the Vietnam war.

Could you imagine that sh*t. (Image via Giphy)

4. The Deer Hunter

Because no one wants to think about the dangers of being a prisoner of war and playing Russian roulette at the same time.

Ballsy. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: 5 military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe are true

5. Platoon

No one wants to get left behind and eventually gunned down by the bad guys.

WHY ME?! (Image via Giphy)

Bonus: Pearl Harbor

This is a good one if you join the service with a buddy. In Micheal Bay’s “Pearl Harbor,” two childhood friends join the military as pilots. As one is off fighting in an aerial dogfight, the other stays back keeping his girlfriend company — eventually knocking her up.

Spoiler alert — he takes about a half dozen bullets for his buddy to buy himself some redemption. That is all.

It’s actually a good way to make things even. (Image via Giphy)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Jason Cabell: a profile in passion, courage, and breaking down barriers

Jason Cabell finished his mainstream directorial debut with the film “Running with the Devil,” starring Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne. The film is inspired by Cabell’s service with the Navy SEALs, dealing with the drug trade.

With completing “Running with the Devil,” Cabell becomes a rare breed in Hollywood and the military- a combat veteran Navy SEAL who wrote and directed his own feature film. The cast thoroughly enjoyed working with him; Laurence Fishburne shares details about his experience on RWTD.

Fishburne: [It was] one of the best experiences I have had in recent years, especially with a new director. Jason is incredibly well-organized and beyond enthusiastic. His script was so clever, fun and simplistic. The best things usually are simple and his simplicity brought an elegance to the story. Jason was just incredibly well prepared, which is one of the most important things a director can be. He has incredible leadership abilities because he knows how to follow. Overall, one of the best experiences I have had in recent years.


From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Cole Hauser, Jason Cabell, Barry Pepper and Laurence Fishburne on set of “Running with the Devil.” (Photo courtesy of: Jason Cabell)

Even with his career highlights in special operations and hard earned success as a filmmaker, he is a salt of the earth type of guy. Cabell comes from humble beginnings having been born in Chicago a couple of years after the 1968 Democratic Convention. The riots took place right across the street from where he lived. His father transferred to Colorado to get away from the inner city.

Cabell was born into a mixed family where he came to realize differences among his friends growing up. His father, an African American, was a World War II vet in the Navy as a 20mm gunner on an ammo ship. He served in the battle of Midway and Guadalcanal. After returning from WWII, he played football at Western Michigan University and tried out for the Chicago White Sox but wasn’t allowed in the clubhouse at the time due to his race. Cabell’s dad met his mom while she was working as a nurse.

Cabell’s mother was first generation from Norway. Her family fled Norway when the Nazis invaded. Cabell recalls her kindness and love throughout his childhood. “My mom always encouraged me and said I could be anything I wanted to if I worked hard enough. We always went to the movies together. That was our thing. She loved Dr. Zhivago and from an early age always took me to the Oscar contenders,” Cabell said.

Cabell’s grandfather was a carpenter and settled the family in Skokie, IL. His grandpa built houses in the Skokie area. When visiting Skokie with his family, Cabell would work for his grandfather and remembers noticing the tattoo on his tenants’ arms from concentration camps, as Skokie was a Jewish hub where many Jewish people had relocated from Europe post WWII.

His parents stressed traditional values: be polite, be courteous, always be present for Sunday dinner, have family values, obey the golden rule, be respectful to elders and others and give respect where respect is due. His parents wanted the children to take pride in their appearance and focus on details like not missing belt loops. Cabell recalled that as a military man, “My father wanted us to make our bed and be disciplined in all things.”

Cabell said his parents taught him to “Take the hard right over the easy wrong. Do what you say you will do. Be reliable. Don’t commit to anything that you can’t do. Be honest with yourself and other people. You have to deliver every time and be a man of your word.” Cabell was always close to his family. Both of his parents have passed but he continues to model their values with his own two children. Cabell pressed forward from his youth in Colorado to the next big adventure- the Navy SEALs.

Cabell had a call to adventure which led to him to the to the SEALs, where he wanted to explore the world. At the time he joined in the late ’80s, no one really knew about the SEALs. He was living in Arizona and saw an Air Show with the U.S. Navy Parachute Team- the Leapfrogs (a group of SEALs). After seeing the Leapfrogs he went to sign up for the Navy SEAL program without knowing how to swim. To learn, he worked with a coach before heading out to the Navy.

Cabell said, “In training you play with your life every day. Things are pretty dynamic, spending 320 days-a-year with your teammates. You constantly ask yourself, would I train and put my life on the line for these people? I got to see and experience the world with these guys.”

He went to well over 100 countries and got to experience places like Iwo Jima, Wake Island, and even stopped to see different atolls from WWII. One of his most memorable training events took place in Monashka Bay in Alaska. The team did a maritime training mission in the area where they experienced a really big weather front but still had to go through with the training mission. Cabell got frostbite from the mission and still has a scar from it.

His foray into the filmmaking business may surprise some people, but he believes he is on the right path. “I always seem to end up where I am supposed to be. If you listen to the universe and head in the right direction, then 1,000 hands will push you along,” Cabell said.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Nicolas Cage and Jason Cabell on set of “Running with the Devil” (Photo courtesy of: Jason Cabell)

There were not any barriers for him in transitioning from the SEALs to being a filmmaker despite having no film school education. Throughout his journey, Cabell has gained many fans and industry professionals that appreciate his work. One is Andrew Ruf, managing partner at Paradigm Talent Agency, who shares this on working with Cabell:

Ruf: Having exceptional rapport is a two-way street that requires constant collaboration to build a strong, positive relationship. When Jason and I first met, we bonded over shared personal experiences and a mutual passion for actors and storytelling. Jason is a down to earth guy who genuinely has great instincts for the work we do and has an incredibly focused drive. His work ethic is unparalleled.

Cabell led a 77-person combat assault force in Baghdad during the height of the war, which helped him tremendously in life and leadership. His leadership experiences prepared him for leading on set. On the set of “Running with the Devil” in Colombia, they had a 250-person crew, which beckons for a person that knows how to get things done.

He said, “You have to possess extreme discipline to be the best.” Cabell read over 1,000 scripts, studying both the good and bad examples, to get the beat pattern down. His experiences on a SEAL team taught him to learn quickly and taught military skills like, skydiving, flying an airplane, calling for fire, calculus and dive physics. Cabell thinks the military education system is the best education system in the world. Actor, writer, director Peter Facinelli worked with Jason on RWTD and shared his thoughts on the experience.

Facinelli: Jason’s military background was apparent; he is a commander on-set and you are part of his troop. I felt protected and that he would have my back, due to his confidence under stress. I never saw a lack of confidence at any point. Jason won’t let people see him sweat. He is efficient and keeps things moving like clockwork. He keeps the “troops” informed and lets the actors know what is expected from them- a well-run set. I have worked with a lot of directors and he has earned my respect.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Facinelli and Cabell on the set of “Running with the Devil.” (Photo courtesy of: Jason Cabell)

Cabell got his start on the creative side of the industry by writing scripts. He started small by directing an 0,000 movie, “Smoke Filled Lungs.” He produced a TV movie for MarVista titled “2020,” and just kept learning and moving.

He said, “My father always taught me you can do anything you want if you are willing to sacrifice and put the work in.” He made a lot of sacrifices to begin a new career where reinventing oneself is tough and becomes harder as age increases.

“One of the things nowadays is making excuses and being a victim,” said Cabell. “People fetishize being a victim in our culture as opposed to being a success. No one will give you anything. You have to work for it. You have to work beyond exhaustion and failure, or you will never succeed.”

He believes there are many people that are victims from societal pressures. He said, “To succeed you need to stay away from negative people that crap on your dreams. If you have the talent and are doing the right things, then keep doing it.” Cabell has never been the fastest or strongest but has found a way to grind it out.

Producer and executive Lauren Craig also experienced working on set with Cabell.

Craig: I worked with him from the beginning to the end of production. He was professional, open to ideas and it was easy to follow through on what he wanted because he was so direct with his vision. Jason found a way to separate who he is as a SEAL and who he is as a filmmaker, which greatly benefited the production. He focused on his vision and story and tried to make it as universal as possible… Jason was always trying to boost the morale of everyone on set. We were in the snow, desert, and urban areas. No matter the situation, he was always encouraging and trying to bring everyone up. Jason is the consummate professional; we were all on a team together even though he was the director. He made us feel like we were a part of something bigger.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Jason Cabell on set in the Sandia Mountains (NM) with Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne and AP Lauren Craig. (Photo courtesy of: Jason Cabell)

Fishburne had positive insights into Cabell’s directing abilities.

Fishburne: A little bit of Eastwood comes through in Jason’s directing. His enthusiasm is similar to John Singleton’s enthusiasm. John was a first-time director when I worked with him. Jason’s experience as a veteran plays into his abilities as a director. He has a young man’s spirit with an older man’s wisdom. Jason is the kind of guy that will tell you he was afraid of something and he is also wise enough not to show it. Showing fear will not get you through it; moving through your fear is what truly helps you.

Fishburne provides a final thought on Cabell’s trajectory within the next 5 years. He said, “I will see Jason on set working somewhere and calling “Action,” saying “Very good, Mr. Fishburne, can we do another one?”

With the success of the film that has such a high level cast, the continued work ethic of Cabell and the agency behind him, Ruf is highly positive on Cabell’s upward trajectory.

Ruf: Jason is a very promising artist in Hollywood. I can see him being one of the highly sought after directors/writers in this industry in both film and television and running his own production company. His adaptability and leadership abilities will allow him to reach new heights in whichever field he decides to pursue but his passion for entertainment is certain and this is where I see him scoring. He is incredibly talented and knowledgeable when it comes to what the audience wants to see on screen, and we, here at Paradigm, look forward to what he has in store next.

This article originally appeared on Annenberg Media. Follow @AnnenbergMedia on Twitter.


MIGHTY MOVIES

The 16 best military movies of all time

From realistic portrayals of combat to comedic satire of thermonuclear warfare, some military-themed movies are a cut above the rest.


Since WATM is headquartered in Hollywood, California and run by military veterans, it makes sense that we would put together a ranking of the best military movies of all time. Whether they include great stories, very quotable lines, intense combat (or all of the above), these 16 movies are what we’d pick as the best military movies.

16. Jarhead (2005)

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.

Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.

15. Catch-22 (1970)

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Plot: B-25 navigator stationed in North Africa during World War II wrestles with the tragedy, irony, and hypocrisy that surrounds him as the minimum mission requirement continues to rise.

Reason to watch: Early SNL alum Buck Henry adapted Joseph Heller’s classic WW2 novel for an American public that was at odds over the Vietnam War, evidence that it took nearly a decade and a half for the themes to resonate. In spite of the fact that parts of the story are over-the-top, the movie (and even more so the book) are prescriptive. Anyone who’s ever spent any time around the Air Force will recognize the personalities: Careerist buffoons, obtuse general officers, opportunistic (albeit very entrepreneurial) junior officers as well as the folks who are just trying to get the job done without going crazy are all here.

14. Tigerland (2000)

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Plot: A group of recruits go through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana’s infamous Tigerland, last stop before Vietnam for tens of thousands of young men in 1971.

Reason to watch: Colin Farrell gives a wonderful performance as Pvt. Roland Bozz, a misfit draftee soldier who spends most of his Army career getting into trouble. Set during the Vietnam war in 1971, the film is unique in that it never takes the viewer to Vietnam. Instead, the plot follows along with the training of young soldiers before they go overseas, and offers realistic portrayals of soldiers from Bozz, to the idealistic Pvt. Paxton (played by Matthew Davis), to the brutal instructor of Staff Sgt. Thomas (played by James McDonald).

13. Taking Chance (2009)

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.

Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.

12. A Few Good Men (1992)

Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.

Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).

11. Patton (1970)

Plot: The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.

Reason to watch: George C. Scott gives a masterful portrayal of the controversial Army general during World War II. The opening speech alone is worth watching, with Patton giving a rousing speech to troops that opens with the line, “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

10. To Hell and Back (1955)

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Plot: The true WWII story of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in U.S. history. Based on the autobiography of Audie Murphy who stars as himself in the film.

Reason to watch: Instead of settling for actors trying to recreate battlefield heroics, why not watch the real-life soldier do it? That’s what you’ll see in “To Hell and Back,” the film that follows the life of Audie Murphy, the most-decorated soldier of World War II. Murphy stars as himself in this film, which kicked off a 21-year acting career after his Army service.

9. Das Boot (1981)

 

Plot: The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.

Reason to watch: Nominated for six Oscars, Wolfgang Petersen’s masterpiece film gives a rare look at the fight from the other side during World War II. Tasked with fighting the “Battle of the Atlantic,” the life of a German U-Boat crew is shown in depth here, with an especially brilliant portrayal of the ship’s captain by Jurgen Prochnow.

8. Platoon (1986)

Plot: A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.

Reason to watch: Told from the perspective of Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), “Platoon” gives an inside look at what it was like for a grunt on the ground in Vietnam. Besides showing infantry life and all its hardships, the film also boasts incredible performances from Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias, and Tom Berenger as Staff Sgt. Barnes. It’s also worth noting that this film had an extra level of realism to it, with its director (Oliver Stone) and military technical advisor (Dale Dye) both having served in Vietnam.

7. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Plot: A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.

Reason to watch: Based on the classic book by Erich Maria Remarque, this masterpiece explores the extreme stress, discomfort, and horrors of war that soldiers faced fighting in the trenches of World War I. The film is on many “best film” lists, especially considering its realistic portrayal of warfare. In perhaps the most chilling scene of the movie, the main character of Paul stabs a French soldier, only to find himself trapped in the same hole with him as he dies.

“Why do they never tell us that you are just poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying, and the same agony,” he says. “Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”

6. Flags of our Fathers (2006)

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.

Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).

5. Dr. Strangelove (1964)

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Plot: An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.

Reason to watch: While Director Stanley Kubrick offers a hilarious and brutal satire of Cold War tensions, he also provides plenty of insight into political and military leaders and their thinking at the time. This one was years ahead of its time, and it also has some great B-52 crew coordination scenes.

“Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink water?”

4. Black Hawk Down (2001)

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Plot: 123 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.

Reason to watch: Based on the book by journalist Mark Bowden (which is an absolute must-read), “Black Hawk Down” details the failed attempt to capture a Somali warlord — an operation that should have lasted 15 minutes — that unfortunately does not go according to plan. After two helicopters are shot down, soldiers are shown reacting and adapting to the changing events, often in heroic fashion. From depicting soldiers preparing for a mission, how they respond to irregular warfare, and the actions of Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, this film is a must-see.

3. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

 

Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.

Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.

2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Plot: Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Reason to watch: Just the first ten minutes with the film’s incredible depiction of the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 make this a must-watch. After this sequence, however, there is plenty to stick around for: Tom Hanks wonderful portrayal of Capt. Miller, the banter of soldiers as they search the French countryside, and the heroic “last stand” at a bridge the troops need to keep the Germans away from.

1. We Were Soldiers (2002)

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Plot: The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.

Reason to watch: Mel Gibson brilliantly portrays then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore as he leads his unit in the first major battle of the Vietnam war. But there are so many great performances in this film (based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young”) which opens by saying that “every damn Hollywood movie got it wrong.” From the portrayal of the gruff combat veteran Sgt. Maj. Plumley and pilot and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall, to the hardship endured at home by the Army wives, this film gets it right.

NOW CHECK OUT: 9 military movie scenes where Hollywood got it totally wrong

MIGHTY MOVIES

7 military movie cliches that are just plain confusing

There’s rarely a middle ground with military films. Either they’re masterpieces worthy of every accolade given or they’re so bad that troops turn them into drinking games, taking a shot every time something completely unrealistic happens.


Great military films take an in-depth look at actual service members and veterans and are written based on real experiences. The laughable, however, just take a quick glance at how other war films have done it and copy the wrong notes. This is how we end up with so many awful cliches that may work in a film, but would never happen in the real world.

1. Choice of mission

Many films use some variation of Mission: Impossible‘s “your mission, should you choose to accept it…” line. Sure, that works for Ethan Hunt — because he’s not a soldier and is able to make choices.

Troops don’t have that luxury. If the commander says it, that’s an order.

Using the TV series just to remind everyone Mission: Impossible existed before Tom Cruise.

2. Troops were secretly the bad guys all along

This one is most prevalent among movies set in some post-apocalyptic world. It turns out our reluctant protagonist now has to fight the “big bad” U.S. military because… uh… reasons?

Let’s take, for example, nearly every single zombie film. So, the world has already come to an end. At this point, the military would be too busy trying to restore order with some sort of martial law, but in the movies, the military is most concerned with figuring how to best weaponize zombies against their enemies (ignoring the fact that, if the world ended, the enemy was probably also ended by zombies). Once this revelation comes to light, everyone in the platoon is just totally cool with gunning down the protagonists.

what?

Seriously, why are the only loyal and obedient soldiers evil? 

3. Walking off post (while deployed)

To be completely fair to the modern war films that do this, yes: troops get more time off than most people think. We’re not on patrol every single waking moment of a deployment. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have the free time, ability, or desire to walk off-post to grab a beer.

There’s been one high-profile individual who’s done this and, uh, let’s just say that the military community doesn’t think highly of it.

Yeah, there’re many other things wrong with The Hurt Locker, but those have been pointed out a million and a half times. 

4. Vehicles are always breaking down

It feels like whenever our heroes need to make a big break for it, the damn vehicle craps out on them.

Seriously, this cliche rears its head more often than a teenager trips as they try to escape Jason Voorhees. There are mechanics in the military and they do take pride in their work.

Even great films can’t avoid cliches. 

5. Saying the phrase, “with all due respect”

Characters find the courage within themselves to stand up to the high-ranking officer and say something that starts with, “with all due respect…” Suddenly, they’re given free reign to say whatever’s on their mind.

Nope. That’s a really quick way to get demoted. The line works in Talladega Nights because it’s not a war film. But even in Talladega Nights, they acknowledge that the line is, basically, worthless.

Ricky Bobby is basically every E-3 in the military. 

6. Everything about the phrase, “if I told you, I’d have to kill you”

On film, how do show a spy tiptoeing around the fact that they’re a spy? Ah, yes! By having them almost tell someone in a bar — perfect!

Actual agents don’t even tell their families that they’re spies, let alone some random person at the bar. Thankfully, the granddaddy of all film spies, James Bond, doesn’t stoop that low.

It happens far more than you’d think. 

7. No one is willing to fight until the protagonist gives a speech

It’s the darkest moment of the film. The good guys have nearly lost and the enemy is all around them. There’s only one person with the newfound courage to rally the troops. They stand in front of everyone and deliver a passionate speech. Those words inspire in everyone the courage they need to stand up and win. Our hero did it! Everyone lived and the bad guys lost. Roll credits…

Actual speeches before troops go out and “fight the good fight” usually involve safety briefs, radio frequencies, and contingency plans. In real life, nobody needs some Academy-Award winning speech before fighting the bad guys.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEOOZDbMrgE

“Now that you mention it… Yeah, I do like freedom.”

*Bonus* Famous last words

To be completely real for a moment, I can almost guarantee the phrase “what the f*ck?” is a much more common set of last words than, “tell my wife… *cough* I love her.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

How a Vietnam War PJ joined the crew of ‘The Last Full Measure’

When Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger posthumously received a Medal of Honor for his valor and sacrifice during the Vietnam War, retired Air Force Pararescueman SMSgt John Pighini was at the ceremony.

In March 1966, Pitsenbarger was killed in action after intentionally placing himself in harm’s way to rescue Army infantrymen pinned down by the enemy during Operation Abilene during the Vietnam War. He received the Air Force Cross for his actions, but the men he saved never forgot what his sacrifice meant.

After 34 years, his Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in a ceremony that took place on Dec. 8, 2000, just in time for Pitsenbarger’s father to accept the medal on his son’s behalf.

Nearly 20 years later, The Last Full Measure tells the story of Pitsenbarger’s heroism and the efforts it took to present him with the Medal of Honor, the highest military award in the United States of America.

The film recreates the moving Medal of Honor ceremony. John Pighini was there for that, too, which is how his filmmaking journey began.


This is the true story that inspired The Last Full Measure

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“We’d known about the movie for years — it took almost 20 years to get it done. They’d always told us [members of the pararescue community] we could be in the remake of the Medal of Honor ceremony,” Pighini recalled. While there he noticed some military details that weren’t quite correct — so he spoke up and found the director and crew willing to listen and make adjustments.

Director Todd Robinson quickly recognized that Pighini was a valuable resource for his film. Pighini served in Vietnam after graduating from his pararescue training program in November 1966. He would earn a Silver Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross for his rescue missions during the war. He would also serve as the first pararescue superintendent for the 24th Special Tactics Squadron and he now serves as vice president of the Pararescue Association.

So, he knows a thing or two about providing medical aid on the battlefield and combat in Southeast Asia.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Todd Robinson, Jeremy Irvine, August Blanco Rosenstein, John Pighini on set for The Last Full Measure in Thailand, 2017. (Photo by Eddie Rosenstein)

His unique experience made him a particularly helpful resource for creating accuracy for the film. “I taught combat medicine so I was very much in tune with setting up exercises and working with people to ensure everything is done correctly. I was also involved in helicopter operations for so many years,” Pighini stated. He was brought on to film on location with the cast and crew as they shot the Vietnam scenes for the film.

Of course, anyone who has worked on a film knows that it isn’t always possible to be completely accurate. Budget limitations or storytelling choices will often take precedence.

“The important thing was that we told Pits’ story and it resonated with people. There are those who point out that we didn’t have the right helicopter, but there was only one 43 [Kaman HH-43F] and the guy just wouldn’t let it go so we used the Huey [Bell UH-1 Iriquois]. But the movie wasn’t about the Hueys, it was about Pits. It was about going down and saving lives, knowing full well what was coming his way that night. It was about our creed: these things we do that others may live,” Pighini reflected.

When I asked him about the idea of heroism, Pighini grew solemn. “Pararescuemen…it’s in your blood. Like nurses and doctors — when people want to help people, it’s a calling. To me, it was always about saving a life. I didn’t feel like I was being a hero. The guys that gave the last full measure…they’re the heroes.”

The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21

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‘The Last Full Measure’ Trailer

The Last Full Measure is available on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital and includes special features for fans of military history:

  • “The Women of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
  • “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” Featurette
  • “The Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” Featurette
  • “USAF Museum Screening with Veterans Pitsenbarger Family” Featurette
  • “The Music of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
  • “William Pitsenbarger Tribute” Photo Gallery
MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s what ‘Project Blue Book’ creator, David O’Leary, has to say about UFOs

Project Blue Book is a mystery series about U.S. Air Force-sponsored investigations into UFOs from the early 1950s to the late 1960s. Dr. Allen Hynek teams up with Captain Michael Quinn to gather evidence to explain a plethora of phenomenons happening across the United States. I had the opportunity to sit down with the Creator of the series, David O’Leary, for an interview.

The show’s third episode premieres tonight, January 22, at 10/9c on HISTORY.


New UFO Drama Series “Project Blue Book”: First Look Trailer I HISTORY

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What inspired you to write on the topic of UFOs?

UFOs have been a lifelong passion for me, to be honest. I grew up in New York City and I remember going to E.C.E.T. as a little kid and leaving Reese’s Pieces on my window sill. When I was nine years old, I dragged my father to see this famous UFO encounter movie called Communion, [which is] a book that they turned into a movie starring Christopher Walken. I dragged my father to this scary, real-life abduction movie when the it came out in 1989.

Given the fact that, in many cases, people are embarrassed or reluctant to talk about [their experiences,] I very quickly came to assess, these are not attention-seekers looking a weird form of fame, but they genuinely encountered something strange and they’re trying to make sense of it.

My focus, initially, was sort of present day, what was happening with UFOs in the 80s and 90s — that’s when I really started to educate myself. America has this sort of strange and mysterious history in regards to this phenomenon. You can’t look at that without looking at the premier official investigation into UFOs, which was of course, Project Blue Book.

It baffled me that, for 17 years, between 1952 and 1969, the U.S. Air Force was officially looking into these matters and going out there and investigating cases. What baffled me even more was the fact that the chief scientific adviser of Project Blue Book, a civilian astrophysicist who is a complete UFO skeptic with a trained eye, tries explain what people are seeing in the sky and emerges on the other side as a believer. Not only in the notion that UFOs represent an intelligence in our skies that we have yet to understand, but also in the fact that Project Blue Book was, in part, a disinformation campaign.

He spent the rest of his life going out there and investigating cases and wrote several books on the subject.

I thought, what if we did a television show rooted in fact, where every week we looked into these different cases that happened and examine them just like Hynek examined them in Project Blue Book?

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

(HISTORY)

The cast includes many high-ranking officers who deny Hynek’s findings. How true-to-life are these responses from the military?

Very accurate. One of the people I was able to meet was the last living director of Project Blue Book, his name is Lt. Colonel Robert Frend. He was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II and he’s 98 years old. He worked with Hynek and Project Blue Book. He was instrumental in the information on a day-to-day basis — what did Project Blue Book look like? How did it function? How did they get reports? How did it work when they went to examine cases? How did cases come in?

He spoke to high-ranking men who could come and go as they please that would take their files, examine their files, and change their files. [On one hand,] there was the public face of Project Blue Book and then there were the generals who controlled Project Blue Book with their own agenda. Our main characters are the men stuck in the middle.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

(HISTORY)

These sightings began at the start of the Cold War. Did our deadlock between the Soviet Union influence the decisions to keep the investigations classified?

Oh yeah, majorly. UFOs, even during World War II — they would call them “foo fighters” then — both sides of the conflict were seeing things in the sky. Each side was convinced that the other side had some sort of technology that would emerge once the war was over. The war ended and nobody claimed responsibility for what they were seeing. Certainly, as we move into the 50s, five or six years after World War II, most historians believe that that’s when the modern UFO era began — Roswell, Kenneth Arnold, “flying saucers” was coined, all that. It became again this notion of: Is what we’re seeing in our sky some sort of weaponry? Aircraft? Intelligence-gathering device that the other side has that we’ve miscategorized?

A lot of sightings would occur over military bases and weapons tests and that was a genuine fear. “Oh my gosh, the Russians have a technology that is surveying our bases!” UFO sightings were also happening in Russia, but they were not as well known. The U.S. Government was the only one that launched an official investigation into these matters, at least at first.

It became this idea that flying saucers might be man-made technology that we couldn’t fathom yet, and that they were built by our enemies. That was just as scary as anything. On the show, we tried to remain true to that aspect of it. Are we dealing with the Russians or not?

US Fighter Jets Encounter Unknown Flying Object [UFO] – With Pilots Audio

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I’ve worked for the government before and it is incredibly hard for them to admit to investigations, even if they’re declassified. Were there any barriers in your way when you were gathering research for this project?

Fortunately, through the Freedom of Information Act, the Project Blue Book files are now in the National Archives and are searchable online. Although this was not always the case. It used to be, for many many years, the only way to access these files was to literally go to Washington D.C. and ask for them, one at a time.

Another barrier that I think is sort of interesting is that the official [statement] from our government is Project Blue Book. The official answer today is, “Listen, we’ve looked into this matter for 17 years, from 1952 to 1969, until Project Blue Book was closed after it was deemed that UFOs do not pose a threat to National Security.” The Truth is, that’s not when the government stopped investigating UFOs. The New York Times did this incredible piece on the -million-per-year program where they were researching UFOs. It became clear that the seriousness with which the military takes UFOs has never gone away, it’s just been removed from the public sphere all together.

Now they claim that that program is closed as well, but what can you believe if they said this matter was put to rest in 1969 and then you find out as recently as a couple of years ago, there’s another program looking into the matter, too. They were willing to spend million of taxpayer money researching this — and that’s just what we know about. I’m sure there are many others.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

(Wright-Patterson Air Force Base)

There’s a good probability some of our audience may have had grandparents stationed on bases that appear during the show’s timeline. What locations can we expect to see in the arc of the show?

We go to Fargo, North Dakota, to look into a famous case that happened near a military base there. We to go to Texas, West Virginia… I don’t want to give them all away because I want people to be surprised by the cases we examined. Even if we give some of them away in the trailer, we still travel the country. We wanted to showcase the totality of this phenomenon across the country, and we go to Washington D.C. itself at one point.

What I think is nice about each episode is that they end up having a particular flavor to it. If we’re going into the South, you feel it. If we’re in the Pacific North West, you feel it. If we’re in the middle of the country or a big city like D.C., each episode has a different vibe.

Of course, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, plays a huge role [because] that’s where Project Blue Book was based in Dayton, Ohio.

From gangs to the Navy and then to acting, James Tolkan has seen it all

Do you personally believe that we are not alone in the universe?

I do, I 100% believe we are not alone in the universe. I think the fact that we’re one planet, orbiting in one solar system, amongst many solar systems, in one galaxy amongst many galaxies says enough. There is a line on the show that I wrote,

“The probability of us being alone in the universe is zero.”

That is something I certainly believe.

[However,] in regards to what UFO themselves are, I keep an open mind. I’m in the Dr. J. Allen Hynek camp of thought. I really do believe that UFOs are real and that they do represent an intelligence in our skies that we have yet to understand. I’m as open to [the idea] as he was, but he never explicitly said “aliens.”

He expresses an extraterrestrial hypothesis among others, such as inter-dimensional phenomenon, time travel, suggesting that UFOs are a life form that evolved on the planet that we are yet to understand, or extraterrestrial artificial intelligence. He lays out all these different theories.

Is there anything you’d like to say to our service members and veterans?

I’m so happy and feel so fortunate that we can talk to you guys as a military representation in film and media. There’s so much show content written [in that area], and I know our actors did a ton of research, especially Michael Malarkey, who plays the young Air Force Captain. He really wanted to understand what it was like being in the Air Force back then — he actually grew up in Ohio and had a friend stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He asked if he could hop into a plane because he needed to know how it feels to really fly and be one of those guys.

I’ve gotten close with Michael Harney, who plays one of our generals on the show. His character was originally inspired by a few different generals and General Hoyt Vandenberg. He went down the rabbit hole: Who are these men? What is it like to be that high-ranking of an official? What kind of weight of the world do they hold?

To the viewers and the readers of We Are The Mighty, we really do make the effort to get the military aspects of the show correct. I’m sure there’s going to be something we failed at, but we did have military advisers.

There are plenty of skeptics, believers, and people in between. The show walks that fine line. Even if people say we went deep into X-Files territory or something like that from the trailer, they will be pleasantly surprised to see not everything is as it seems. There are always two answers to every story because the truth is, simply, we don’t know. The show tries to keep an open mind while rooted in real-life findings.

The third episode of the hit series, Project Blue Book, premieres on HISTORY on January 22 at 10PM PST, 9 central. Be sure to catch new episodes each week as they’re released!

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