5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them

It happens every single time a veteran sits down to watch a movie with friends and family. The civilians grab a bag of popcorn while the veteran starts biting their lower lip. The civilians start to enjoy themselves and the veteran starts offhandedly remarking on how “that’s not how it actually happens.”

Before you know it, the veteran hits pause and proceeds to give a full-length presentation on why the film is a disaster because they put the flag on the wrong side of the soldier’s uniform.

Most of what makes a military film bad isn’t intentional, of course. No one wants to spend millions on making a bad movie. But when done right, as so many have been before, troops and veterans will keep it on their top ten film list. So, Mr. Hollywood Producer, when you set out to make the next military blockbuster, use the following advice about the five biggest military movie mistakes.


5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
I’m 100% certain that Dale Dye just knifehands his way into the wardrobe department and just makes his own characters because no one has the guts to tell him no — and I’m okay with this. (Tristar Pictures)

Hire a good military adviser (and listen to them)

This may come as a shock to some veterans, but there are people on film sets whose entire job is to point out what would and wouldn’t happen in the real military. They’re called military advisers. The great military films are made or broken by how much the cast and crew decide listen to said adviser.

On a magnificent film set, like Saving Private Ryan, for example, everyone from Steven Spielberg to the background extras listened to every single word Dale Dye spoke. A good adviser knows they’re not on set to interrupt the creative team’s ideas. If they speak up to say something is wrong, it’s for a good reason.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
I mean, just because it’s a war film doesn’t mean you can get sloppy when writing characters. HBO managed an entire company of fully-developed soldiers over the span of one miniseries.
(HBO)

Writing that reflects reality

When there’s something fundamentally wrong with a film, it can often be traced back to the writer. One of the first things they tell up-and-coming screenwriters is, “you can make a bad movie from a good script, but you can’t make a good movie from a bad script.” And the best writers are those who can make is something feel authentic and realistic, no matter how extraordinary the setting.

Military films are no exception. The fact is, no two troops are the exactly same. This goes for every character in the film. Every character, lead or background, should be fully dimensional and the audience should have a reason to care if they get unexpectedly shot in Act 2B.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
It’s funny because “get this guy” can apply to damn near every military film.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Don’t expect a three-act character arc in the matter of one deployment

While we’re still poking fun at writers, let’s talk about the all-too-common problem of trying to turn real stories into scripts by shoehorning their actions into the Aristotelian structure. For those unfamiliar, this is your basic story of a random nobody becoming a legendary hero. Luke Skywalker did it — but it took him three movies, the loss of his mentor, and multiple failures to finally become a Jedi master.

Don’t expect to apply that same structure to a biopic that begins with a troop being a nobody at basic training and ends with them becoming a battlefield legend. In fact, some of the greatest war films rely on something simple, like “we need to go get this guy” to carry the story. A good story doesn’t need to be humongous in scope to be compelling.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
Just because it’s technically apart of a military uniform, don’t assume people actually wear it…
(Columbia Pictures)

Use authentic wardrobe

Despite how it may seem, there is no law that states that you must mess up uniforms if you’re to use them in a film. In fact, there’s actually a Supreme Court ruling that states you can use real uniforms in the arts — so there’s no excuse.

Use a military adviser and give them a say in the wardrobe department. Or, if you want to keep it simple, hire at least one veteran from whichever branch as part of the wardrobe team.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
I know I keep coming back to it, but look at the D-Day scene in ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ The largest amphibious landing and one of the biggest moments in military history — told entirely through the sole perspective of Captain Miller.
​(Dreamworks Pictures)

Retell the big scenes with smaller moments

It’s called a “set piece.” It’s the huge, elaborate moment that costs a boat-load of cash to capture. It’s what fits perfectly in the trailers. These are the scenes that action sensations, like The Fast and the Furious films, are known for. And yet, they often leave us feeling like something’s missing when done in military films — the personal touch

And that’s what really makes military movies different — sure, there are explosions in war, but it’s an intensely personal moment for the troops fighting. The gigantic scenes will sell much better if they focus on the fear in someone’s eyes more than flying a telephoto lens over the battlefield.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Director of ‘A War’: “I wanted to try to humanize men in uniform”

‘A War,’ directed by Tobias Lindholm, is a Danish film nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film this year. The movie follows Danish Army infantry commander Claus Pedersen, played by Pilou Asbæk, as he leads his men in Afghanistan. Claus struggles with the complexities of rules of engagement during a firefight, and has to deal with the consequences of his decisions in a murky military trial back home.


This time, WATM’s Blake Stilwell was invited to meet with Lindholm to discuss the inspiration behind the film, the goals he hoped to accomplish with it, and the decisions he made for the filming process.

Lindholm and Asbæk previously visited the WATM offices to talk about their experiences working on the film.

Check out the trailer and be sure to keep an eye on your local theaters – ‘A War’ will begin limited theatrical release on Feb. 12.

Articles

Gary Sinise supports vets by walking the walk and rocking the rock

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
Lt. Dan Band featuring Gary Sinise on bass guitar. (Photo: Gary Sinise Foundation)


“Going to the war zones and visiting the troops . . . and being able to pat them on the back and support them . . . has been a great joy, a great personal reward because you can see that you’re providing a service for somebody who’s providing a service for us, and it’s lifting them us in some way,” Gary Sinise says. “I make my living as an actor and all of this is simply something I do with the resources . . . and time that I have.”

Sinise started working with working with wounded warriors primarily as a function of his portrayal of Lt. Dan in the movie “Forrest Gump,” a vet who lost both legs during the Vietnam War. “That movie came out in ’92,” Sinise explains. “Then we had September 11, that terrible event, and we started responding to that in Iraq and Afghanistan — deploying to those places — and our people started getting hurt. And we had this whole new generation of Lt. Dans coming back from those wars. I wanted to very much get behind them and support them in some way.”

That desire wound up manifesting itself in myriad ways including the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Lt. Dan Band, which got its name from the fact all the troops were calling Sinise “Lt. Dan” when he’d visit them in theater.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them

Sinise pushes back on the idea that he’s living out some sort of rock n’ roll fantasy at midlife by playing bass guitar in a touring rock band, pointing out that he was a rocker in high school, which is, ironically, the thing that got him into acting. “I was standing in a hallway with the band members and we were looking kind of raggedy, sort of grubby band guys, you know. And the drama teacher walked by, and she told us to audition for ‘West Side Story’ because we looked like gang members. Two of us ended up going, and I got in the play.”

The Sinise family has military heritage, most notably that of his uncle Jack who was a navigator aboard a B-17 in World War II. Sinise arranged for Jack to have a ride in a vintage B-17 almost 70 years after his final war sortie in 1945, and the event was made into a short documentary that premiered at the GI Film Festival a few years ago.

Watch Gary Sinese talk to actor and Navy veteran Jamie Kaler about his support of wounded vets and the Lt. Dan Band:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/164658974

Don’t miss Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band as they kick off the 10th annual GI Film Festival in Washington DC on May 21. Check out more information and get your tickets here.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Allied’ is a captivating story of love and betrayal during WWII

The truest human vulnerability is that we fall in love.


There are many cliches that explore this strange tendency, but here’s one: “All’s fair in love and war.”

I’ve never really felt comfortable with this sentiment; after all, we have protocols like the Geneva Conventions to very specifically dictate what is NOT fair in war. As for matters of the heart, we have only our own moral constructs — and trust in others.

But what happens when that trust is shattered?

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in ‘Allied’ from Paramount Pictures.

From Oscar winner Robert Zemeckis, “Allied” begins with the perspective of actor Brad Pitt’s Max Vatan, a man trained by the British Special Operations Executive to infiltrate occupied Casablanca during World War II to assassinate the German ambassador.

To accomplish this mission, he is partnered with Marianne Beauséjour, a captivating and brilliant French resistance fighter played by the exquisite Marion Cotillard. True to history, their cover story was for the pair to pose as a married couple, bringing them together in intimate proximity, which ultimately leads to a very real romance — or so it seems.

” ‘Allied’ is absolutely a story of betrayal and that’s the universal theme of this film: how we react when we start to think someone we love isn’t who they say they are,” Zemeckis said.

The charisma of Cotillard’s performance is matched by the growing suspicion that she is keeping secrets, which, when set against the backdrop of World War II, literally could mean life or death for our heroes — and their countries.

The tension in this film is beautifully balanced by the sensual chemistry of its two leads, the eloquent cinematography, and the expert sound design (most notably demonstrated in a sandstorm during one of the best love scenes I have ever watched). Everything about this film was lovely, from the costume design to the sweeping set pieces to the dreamy color palette. Even the intense portrayal of the London Blitz was spectacular.

“Allied” is compelling and evocative, and though it has the high stakes of war, it is truly a story about love and trust. The tension builds slowly then erupts in an emotionally charged but satisfying ending.

It is surely an awards contender.

Articles

It’s all out gorilla warfare in the trailer for ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

“War for the Planet of the Apes” — the sequel to the sequel to the second remake of the Charlton Heston sci-fi classic — picks up the saga of ape freedom fighter Caesar (Andy Serkis), as he and his army of super-smart, genetically-modified apes seek to turn what’s left of the United States into their own banana republic.


As in 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” humanity is on the retreat as the ape army gains ground, and the last armed resistance against the simian conquerors appears to be in the hands of a ruthless — and mostly shirtless — Colonel (Woody Harrelson).

While Caesar’s voiceover in the trailer makes it clear that the apes never wanted war, they’re determined to defend themselves at all cost. Even if it means armageddon.

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ swings into theaters everywhere on July 14, 2017.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 players you should look out for in the Army-Navy game

On Dec. 9, 2017, cadets from West Point will clash against midshipmen from the Naval Academy on the gridiron, marking over 120 years of epic football rivalry.


The historic contest was born after Army Cadet Dennis Michie accepted a Naval Academy challenge to a game of football in 1890. On Nov. 19, the two teams battled it out for the first time.

Year after year, these two teams continued to go head-to-head, making for showdowns fueled by high energy and unbelievable plays.

Related: Navy just dropped its new 2017 smack talk video

As we warm up our tailgating grills for the match-up, let’s take a look at a few difference-makers you should watch for during the game:

Army

6. Ahmad Bradshaw — QB

The Illinois native has racked up a passer rating of 84.8 and has already rushed for an impressive 1472 yards, including 11 rushing touchdowns.

This athletic QB stands at 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 205 pounds, making this senior a force to be reckoned with. The Navy’s D-line will to have to step their game up.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
Army QB #17, Ahmad Bradshaw. (Image from Goarmywestpoint.com)

5. Andy Davidson — RB

This talented junior from Pennsylvania has tallied up impressive rushing yards since he put up 130 against Tulane University earlier in the year.

So far in 2017, number 40 has rushed for 517 yards on only 94 carries — 42 of those yards came in a single run against Tulane.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
Davidson leading charge against Temple. (Source: Zimbio)

4. James Nachtigal — LB

This Wisconsin native is no stranger to stopping the pigskin dead in its tracks. In 2017, this talented linebacker has a total of 87 tackles and five sacks, accounting for 46 negative yards against some talented offenses.

The Black Knights are looking to this defensive anchor to put some serious hurt on the offensive line during the Dec. 9 game.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
James Nachtigal as he sets into position. (Image from Goarmywestpoint.com)

Also Read: 6 military veterans who played in the Super Bowl

Navy

3. Zach Abey — QB

This Navy midshipman is competing at a high level during his junior year. This tough QB isn’t afraid to put his shoulder down and take some hits, as he’s tallied over 1,200 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns so far this season on just 278 carries.

Expect Navy to rely on Abey’s running game for some serious gains during the game.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
Navy quarterback Zach Abey carries the football during a designed run play. (Source: Navy Sports)

2. Tyler Carmona – WR

This powerful 6-foot-4-inch target has pulled down 381-yards receiving yards and 4 TDs in 2017. Hailing from Florida, Carmona is averaging over 27 yards per catch.

Look for Abey to target Carmona while Navy is trying to mix up their passing and running game.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
Tyler Carmona lost his helmet but maintains ball possession.

1. Malcolm Perry — RB

Standing at 5 feet 9 inches tall, this sophomore speedster has racked up over 800-yards on just 92 carries, scoring 8 TDs in the process.

Perry broke out with a 92-yard TD run against SMU back in week 11 and looks to continue his productive year against Army on Dec. 9.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them
Running back Malcolm Perry cuts it up-field in a game against Cincinnati. (Source: Youtube/ Screenshot)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Get ready for a good amount of aerial combat from new GOT show

It’s been four months since the kinda disappointing Game of Thrones finale, but HBO is trying to make it up to us with new shows set in the same universe. Filming on a pilot starring Naomi Watts has already wrapped, and now the network appears close to ordering another.

The as-yet-untitled series would take place 300 years before Thrones and focus on the origins of House Targaryen, that of the Mad King, the Mother of Dragons, and — outdated spoiler alert — Jon Snow himself.


The concept for the show was created by writer and producer Ryan Condal and George RR Martin. It’s based on Fire Blood, a series Martin created as a spin-off to the A Song of Ice and Fire and reportedly represents a new take on one of the five prequel scripts HBO commissioned in 2017.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them

(HBO)

The tagline of Fire Blood is “when dragons ruled Westeros,” which means instead of Daenerys’s three miracle dragons the spin-off should feature way more winged beasts and, we can only presume, a healthy dose of aerial combat.

To date, only the first volume of Martin’s series has been published, which makes us wonder if Martin could be in another situation where a TV series of his lurches ahead of the books it’s ostensibly based on.

Three hundred years is a long time in anyone’s family history, so don’t be surprised if there’s some complicated family tree math to be done connecting the characters in this show to those we meet in Game of Thrones, drawings not unlike those you’d find in the front of one of Martin’s books or on your mail-in DNA test results page.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

From Generation Kill to This Is Us, Jon Huertas talks family, career and life in the Air Force

Jon Huertas is one of the most successful Latino actors of today. Having been a lead on shows such as Generation Kill, Castle, This Is Us, and in the military film The Objective, Huertas is well-known for the depth of his talent. Perhaps lesser known: He’s an Air Force veteran. Huertas served in the Air Force before transitioning over to acting where he comes at his craft and profession from a much deeper perspective than one might recognize at a quick glance. He shares his stories here about where he has been, where he wants to go and changes he believes are necessary in the Entertainment industry.


5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them

Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

My upbringing was sometimes tough at times, although my mom and grandparents tried their best to make family life easier. You are born what you’re born into, where you try to come out with a smile on your face.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My mother worked very hard and the best as she could for her family. I grew up with my grandparents where my grandfather was adamant about studying effectively and always being a student of life. You never really master anything and need to keep an open mind because nothing is solid and everything in life tends to be fluid. So, I always try to learn something new to be ready for life’s many changes. My grandmother had a good sense of humor and she didn’t take herself too seriously. She was always laughing and always having fun. Our life on this planet is super short, with how small of creatures we truly are in the universe. And in retrospect to how long the earth has been here.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

In many ways I raised myself and made mistakes where I could have landed on a completely different path in life. I had a dream to be an actor and also a hero complex with a developing desire to also serve my country. These desires mostly kept me out of trouble growing up…”mostly,” but getting in trouble a few times steered me in the right direction. My goals kept me focused and not ending up in situations where I shouldn’t be. It was like I would have internal conversations with myself about my goals and which forced me to grow up.

WATM: What influenced you to join the US Air Force, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?

A lot of men in my family served, including my grandfather who was in the Navy, my uncle was in the Navy and I had several uncles that served in the Marine Corps as well. I saw pictures of them, especially the black and white picture of my grandfather in uniform, where I actually saw myself in that photo. I went to the Navy recruiter first then off to MEPS but then joined the Air Force after a conversation with a family member. I’d always loved flying, I loved airplanes and helicopters, so it was only natural that I joined the AF instead.

Serving your country is one of the last rites of passage in our country. And while I served, I identified and followed good leaders so I could aspire to one day become one myself. That’s my biggest take away from my time in the AF. You can find your family anywhere and when you’re in the military, you create this family around you at your duty stations. When you leave that one, you then have to find your new family at your next duty station. It’s actually fairly easy for humans to adapt in a situation where you have to find “your people”. I learned that I needed to surround myself with the people that were going to help me attain my goals. I got this from the AF, but I feel it can work for anyone whether the serve or not.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the USAF into acting?

The two most valuable things I took away from the AF is having a strong sense of initiative and discipline. It takes initiative to get your career started. Becoming an actor is one of the hardest careers. It is not even really a career; it is a lifestyle. So having the initiative to figure it all out was huge for me. And you have to have the discipline to stick with it and not give up. Knowing that being in constant training will keep you sharp and ready. In the military we are always improving on our training. It is the same with acting, I am constantly training. There are wonderful acting classes, books to read and films to watch. When you get the opportunity to finally go in for an audition, you should feel like you are the best that you think you can be, then show them that you are the best one for that job.

WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?

My most fulfilling role is definitely in “Generation Kill” as Sgt. Tony Espera. This was because they had developed a wonderfully complex Latino character. It was unlike any other show that I had worked on. My character, Espera, wasn’t a narco trafficker or a low-level thug, he was someone who had chosen to serve his country. Probably the most developed Latino character I have ever played. HBO, David Simon, Ed Burns and Evan Wright showed gumption by making Espera one of the leads in the show. And it was so gratifying to portray a character like him — to tell an authentic story to the men and women who serve our country and to stay truthful to what happened during the invasion. The writer of the book, Evan Wright, was on set and would provide key advice. Evan had a micro recorder that he always had on him to where if we questioned some of the dialogue, he would pull out the recorder and we could hear our dialog being said, as it happened, by the real guys we were portraying. For advisors on the story, we had the real Rudy Reyes playing himself, with Jeff Carazales and Erick Kocher, also there but being portrayed by actors. Of course, we would them if, in these scripts, it was the way that it really happened, and they let us know it was.

The two biggest compliments I’ve ever received as an actor was when Tony Espera’s wife saw GK at the Camp Pendleton premiere and she asked me, “How was I able to be Tony?” and the other was Tony himself telling me, “I felt like I was watching memories, not a TV show.” Because of that, Generation Kill is the pinnacle of my career.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them

Jon Huertas, Alexander Skarsgard, and Lee Tergeson in “Generation Kill”. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Rob Bowman, Alex Skarsgard, Susana White, Simon Cellan Jones, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Dan Fogelman, and the like?

Castle is something that I had never experienced before. It is probably the most collaborative show I have ever worked on. They let me help develop Esposito, the character I played. He wasn’t a veteran in the pilot. I asked the producers if I could make him an Army veteran and they let me do it. The relationship I had with Nathan Fillion and Seamus Dever, where our characters, were normally the looser part of the story when compared with the Beckett character played by Stana Katic. We could play around a little more and Stana usually played the straight woman, mirroring the audience’s perspective. She was so good at portraying that character and bringing the three of us back to a more grounded place for the procedural aspect of the show. We were able to figure out how to play, what could’ve been repetitive tropes, differently by infusing character and humor into it that made us stick out. Rob Bowman directed our pilot and he is a mentor to me. He was my first teacher as a director, and he was so encouraging for us to bring more humor. He loved to laugh and wanted us to improve the story by having us not take ourselves too seriously which I think allowed the audience to root for us.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them

Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever in “Castle”. Photo credit IMDB.com

I can’t say enough about Seamus Dever who played my partner on the show. He is not only a loyal actor but an even more loyal friend. He was always protective of me and our work. He made my time on Castle the best time I could have had. Nathan is such a giving person and super generous. He wasn’t always trying to be the center of the show, he loved highlighting what the rest of us did. The most fun I had was trying to make Nathan laugh during a take, which I reprised when I got to guest with Nathan on The Rookie last year.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them

Stana Katic, Nathan Fillion, and Jon Huertas in “Castle”. Photo credit IMDB.com

After working on Generation Kill, it was amazing to see so many of the guys go off and do such wonderful work after the show. Alexander Skarsgard’s career has been amazing, from doing True Blood to Tarzan and tons of other amazing gigs. And to think he was thinking about quitting acting right before the GK?! Brad “Iceman” Colbert, who Alexander portrayed in Generation Kill, was super proud of Alexander’s work portraying him. Alex and I are still tight as well as most everyone from the show like, James Ransone, Stark Sands, Wilson Bethel, Michael Kelley, and many others. We’re all like brothers now. Almost every single guy from Generation Kill was at my wedding and it was a destination wedding in Mexico, I still can’t believe they all came there for me. I even flew with guys from Generation Kill to England to go to Stark Sands’ wedding. There have been several destination weddings from guys on that show. Everyone on Generation Kill was such a joy to work with, they pushed me, and I pushed them and their dedication in getting the story right made me very proud.

5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them

Kellan Lutz, Sal Alvarez, Jon Huertas, Pawel Szajda, and Stefan Otto in Generation Kill.

The experience was almost like being deployed. We shot for nearly eight months in Africa in the countries of Namibia, South Africa’s and in Mozambique. We were a cast made up of almost all guys and for Susana White to not only keep us all from killing each other, she did such an amazing job with the subject matter and was so open to getting the story right. She ended up nominated for Emmy for GK and, in fact, the show was nominated for eleven Emmys. Simon Kellan Jones is a blast to work with and made the set such a fun place to be. Even though we were telling a story that sometimes had us calling in an air strike on the civilian populace, Simon helped us process it so we didn’t bring in too much darkness where people may not watch it.

Now, This Is Us is a family show with no guns like a lot of shows I’ve done in the past. It does feel like a family and all that trickles down through Dan Fogelman. He sets the tone for the show. It is rare to be part of a show that has the impact that this show has. It’s another once in a lifetime experience to be on a show that has touched so many people in so many profound ways.
5 military movie mistakes and how to fix them

Jon Huertas, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore and Wynn Everett in “This Is Us”. Photo credit IMDB.com

All of the projects I’ve been a part of have been amazing in their own way. But working in this industry for the past 25 years, I’ve seen a lack of people behind the scenes that I can say have had similar experiences as an adult male Latino. Meaning…I’ve been working a lot of episodes of television from guest stars to series regulars to leads and I’ve only been directed by one adult male Latino. That is one a hole that still needs to be filled as well as TV writers, Show Runners, Producers and Executives.

After This Is Us ends, I’d like to spend more time behind the camera in the director’s chair and in writing. With the lack of Latino writers in TV, so many characters and storylines featuring Latinos are in roles of a negative stereotype or in menial roles like the gardener or cook instead of as heroes, champions, romantics and role models. So, until you can get people that are writing about it, producing it, developing it, greenlighting it or directing it you are not going to see it. I feel a responsibility to be a part of pushing that message forward. I see a lack of representation at the network, studio and production level for Latinos and I hope to be a part of changing that as well.

As a little kid I had this hero complex. I watched TV and movies, but rarely did I see anyone who looked or talked like me. I watched the old “Batman” TV series with Adam West and I loved Adam West but… he didn’t look like me. So in the back of my mind, I thought that I couldn’t be Batman because he was white. Marvel still hasn’t stepped up with Latino representation. In the TV world there was a recurring character called, Ghost Rider on Agents of Shield but for 20 plus years of doing Marvel in the cinematic universe, they’ve yet to have one adult male Latino as a superhero in his own title.

Erik Estrada was an influential to me while growing up as well as Esai Morales, who was another mentor of mine. I saw him for the first time in a Sean Penn movie called Bad Boys and I think that was the first time I saw someone who really looked like me. It took me seeing someone like me to have the confidence to aspire to become an actor. Latino characters need to be portrayed as the hero, the guy that gets the girl, and the wealthy guy. We have to force ourselves to tell stories that are an equal slice of life. The best bite of a stew is one with all of the pieces of the stew, not just the same three or four pieces.

WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the USAF have helped you most in your career?

Instead of making emotional decisions allow your emotions to inspire a calculated decision. That is what shows a true leader: You are not letting your emotions speak for you are letting your emotions inspire you to make the best decision. Emotional decisions can be like gut punches where you just react. A person may not think a certain way where they lash out after being hurt.

As an actor your job is to convey an emotion so you can get an emotional response from your audience. If a director and another actor come in and they’re trying to guide your personal choices to benefit them and you feel they’re trying to manipulate your artistic vision for your character, you could become emotional. If you let your emotion take over, you might regret reacting the way you do and end up looking like the problem in the moment. Now there’s tension between actor and director or actor and actor. If you take just a moment and think internally, “How do I get what I want?” You say, “I see where you are coming from, but does this have any value?”You may get them to see it from your perspective and you help them make your decision for you. Now that is, “if” your decision does have value. If so, how can they deny it?

Good decision-making trickles down from the top. From the president to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Pentagon. Even on the unit level from the battalion commander to the platoon commander and on down.

WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood and stage arena?

Think back to It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart where he was a WWII veteran. Stories are already being told that veterans like to watch but we need to encourage veterans to step up and write, direct, produce stories that speak not only to veteran audiences but also the general market. Veterans a lot of times make the focus of their stories completely from a veteran POV but instead need to create a story everyone will be into and then just happen to make the characters veterans. It’s almost like when you are laying out your characters and mark one with a green dot “veteran”. Back in the day, we just wouldn’t watch a lot of the TV shows or films that centered on veterans because Hollywood usually got it wrong. But now that’s changed. Some bars have been set high because some of the more recent military based projects, especially the higher quality ones, have hired advisors and/or worked with veterans from the inception of the projects. Just like I have to step out as a Latino and encourage others to do so, we need to encourage veterans to step out as well to write the stories.

Just like what I shared about training, not only when serving, when starting out as an actor but also veterans who want to tell their stories need to study creative writing and learn how to write a, treatments, out lines, pitches, log-lines and eventually an amazing screenplay. You have to write something that is not only a great story, but that is produce-able. The hope is that you can sell it somewhere and it’s given a proper budget so the integrity and authenticity can be upheld. As a veteran that wants to write a series about a veteran you may have to work as a staff writer on a show that is not about veterans, so you have to have an open mind. You have to have the skills to write a good script and then after a season or so you can talk to the producers about trying to introduce a character that is a veteran. You have to get into that writer’s room and win hearts and minds. Invest in the writer’s room and then move to the director’s chair and the executive’s chair at the studio, be in charge of what is getting made. You might be able to get into a position to inspire every project created at the studio level, who knows.

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

I’m proud to have been a working actor who happens to be Latino and also proud to be veterans who has represented veterans truthfully on screen. Portraying veteran and Latino characters positively has hopefully affected someone out there positively as well.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is what’s in Batman’s utility belt

Over the years, it has become a running joke of sorts that Batman’s glorified fanny pack contains whatever items he needs to fulfill his current mission, regardless of how unlikely a scenario the caped crusader may find himself in. This leads us to the query of the hour- what has Batman’s utility belt been shown to contain?

Up until the release of Detective Comics #29, which formally introduced the idea of Batman having a utility belt, Batman’s costume had, for all intents and purposes, an ordinary belt that stored a single gadget- the bat rope with a grappling hook.


Whats in Batmans Utility Belt & Other Bat Gadgets? – Know Your Universe | Comicstorian

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In Detective Comics #29, writer Gardner Fox decided to expand his tool-set, establishing that the Dark Knight wore a belt with numerous pouches containing various gadgets he may need while fighting crime- the first revealed being small glass pellets that when thrown released a large cloud of obscuring, choking gas.

From there things became a bit more elaborate. For example, among other things the utility belt was shown to include a giant balloon figure of batman that can be inflated remotely (Batman #115), a mini Geiger counter (Batman #117), and even a small disk made of asbestos inexplicably revealing his secret identity (Detective Comics #185).

In the 1958 comic Batman #117, it even shows him carrying shark repellent, for all those times one needs to fend off sharks while fighting crime on the streets of Gotham… If you’re curious, in this case Batman was underwater on an alien planet. Lucky for him, he remembered to pack his shark repellent and used it against an angry alien, reasoning that “if it works on the killers of the deep on Earth” it might just scare away a similar creature on an alien planet. We mention this because it gives the infamous scene in the 1966 Batman film where Adam West fends off a shark in mid-air with some handy Shark Repellent Bat Spray some context. Glorious, 1950s era context with pure West.

Related: The real ‘Batman’ served during World War II

Later comics also establish that Batman has gadgets specifically designed to counter single members of his rogues gallery such as an antidote to the Joker’s Joker toxin, a Bat-heater to combat Mr Freeze, and special gloves that augment his punching power to fight on a more even playing field with the superhumanly strong villain Bane. Not just for enemies, Batman also apparently keeps what’s needed on hand to take out his allies as well, including a little bit of kryptonite, just in case.

It should also be noted here that in his very earliest comic outings, Batman’s utility belt had space for a handgun. Yes, as sacrilege as this would be in modern times, early versions of Batman had no qualms about shooting bad guys dead.

As for more day to day things, Batman’s utility belt further carries: A first aid kit containing basic surgical tools and various anti-toxins, an acetylene torch that can “cut through the hull of a battleship”, a forensic kit for analysing crime scenes, batarangs, a communication device, keys for the Batmobile, a rebreather in case Batman is ever submerged underwater, Batcuffs (special handcuffs designed to restrain even superpowered individuals), a lockpick, a high resolution camera and in some cases and the aforementioned grappling hook. In addition, the belt also contains numerous darts and pellets designed to subdue, incapacitate or otherwise stun criminals non-lethally when thrown. It also is variously shown to have a flamethrower, and EMP, a sonic devastator, remote claw, napalm, explosive gel, a cryptographic sequencer, and grenades of various type.

Bat addiction: The US wanted an army of Batman paratroopers in WW2

Batman’s Utility Belt // Supercut

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Batman’s Utility Belt // Supercut

In the Batman and Robin film, the belt is even shown to contain a bat-credit card, which, if Batman is to be believed when he flashes it, is something he never leaves home without. And, to be honest, while this scene is often made fun of by the masses, it does at least accurately demonstrate a way for Batman to use his greatest super power- being rich.

In any event, as you might be gathering at this point, writers for Batman really do use his utility belt as a deus ex machina of sorts, usually introducing an amazingly specific gadget seemingly perfectly suited to solve whatever problem Batman has at a given time, with that gadget often never being mentioned again in later depictions.

In an effort to explain away their lazy writing in a semi-plausible way, the comic authors established in Batman canon that the hero obsessively plans every encounter to the most minute detail and has safeguards in place for any eventuality. Thus implying that the exact contents of his utility belt at any given time vary considerably from day to day, though even just going with the staple items that are supposedly always there, the storage capacity of this belt would give Hermione Granger’s handbag a run for its money.

Also read: 6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

Speaking of planning for any eventuality, the belt has numerous inbuilt security systems to prevent unauthorized use including a tracking beacon and an explosive charge so Batman can destroy it as a last resort if he ever loses it. The belt can also only be accessed by Batman and the various compartments and pouches will only open in response to a specific finger pattern.

The belt is also supposed to be constructed from a titanium alloy that makes it near indestructible, except, we guess from whatever explosive he used for its self destruct mode.

Of course, it’s at this point we feel compelled to point out that in the 1960s Batman TV show, early editions of his utility belt can very clearly be shown to be made up of common household kitchen sponges clipped to a yellow belt…

But to sum up, Batman’s superhero fanny pack contains a bafflingly array of equipment to fight crime, from shark repellent to kryptonite, that somehow all fits neatly into his tiny belt thanks to the magic of lazy comic writing.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Bonus Fact:

  • Speaking of Batman’s obsessive planning, the comic JLA: Tower of Babel notes that Batman has plans in place to take out his own teammates, keeping detailed dossiers describing how to best deal with heroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. Batman’s obsession with being prepared for every scenario is such that he even keeps a file detailing how to kill himself should the need arise. For anyone curious, Batman notes that the easiest way to kill him would be to distract him by taking an innocent person hostage then take him out like any other mortal man. Although, given countless villains have used this exact strategy against him with little effect, we’re thinking maybe Batman’s planning abilities may be a little overestimated.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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‘The Wall’ takes the classic sniper duel to a whole new level

It’s the classic battle between masters of the martial arts.


Snipers embody the best of stealth, reconnaissance and camouflage and are at the top of their game when it come to dispatching targets with precision from a great distance.

“One shot, one kill” is no joke.

And when it comes to the best way to combat an enemy sniper, there’s no better weapon than a good guy sniper.

But what happens when the bad guy turns the tables and the good guy becomes the hunted? That’s exactly what happens in the new film from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions titled “The Wall.”

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and WWE superstar John Cena, “The Wall” depicts a sneak attack on a U.S. sniper team in Iraq by a diabolical enemy sharpshooter called “Juba,” played by Laith Nakli. The movie explores the psychological jiujitsu from each side as they try to outmaneuver one another in a battle where moving an inch in the wrong direction could mean certain death.

The enemy sniper from “The Wall” is loosely based on the infamous insurgent sharpshooter with the Juba nom de guerre in Iraq. The real Juba was reportedly killed by ISIS in 2013.

“The Wall” will be released in theaters May 12.

MIGHTY MOVIES

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Landing Home takes you right into the trenches, forcing you to acknowledge the impacts of America’s 20-year war. Viewers must confront the reality of veterans struggling after they return home.

Douglas Taurel plays Luke, an Army veteran returning home after serving in Afghanistan. Taurel himself is best known for his gripping one-man play, The American Soldier, in which he plays multiple characters, bringing the viewer from the Revolutionary War to the current conflict in the Middle East. The play itself and all of his unforgettable relationships built with veterans of every walk of life inspired Landing Home.


The child of Jewish Argentinian immigrants, he grew up with his father who was in love with America and her promises. A deep love he passed to his son.

“The thing that got me going was being involved in 9/11. I was coming out of the second tower when that second plane hit it,” Taurel shared. “I couldn’t join [the military] because I was blind in my left eye. But that’s what got me involved in working with veterans.”

Taurel began furiously reading and following America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. While researching other wars he read letters from soldiers who’d been involved in all of America’s conflicts, describing their experiences. As he was reading, he made a shocking revelation. They were all the same, whether it was written during the Civil War or modern times, the struggles of these veterans couldn’t be differentiated. That discovery led him on a six-year journey to creating The American Soldier.

But he wasn’t done yet.

“The series really came from the QA we always have after the play. Vets would come up to me after the show and share their stores. Everyone always said ‘you have to turn this into a movie’,” Taruel said. While he didn’t think it was feasible to fit all his characters into a movie, he decided to create a modern soldier who embodied those characters for a web series.

Taurel wanted it to be a real and true compilation of all of the veteran stories he’d been privy to. On set, 17 of the cast and crew were veterans themselves. Launched through Vimeo, the first episode is an immediate poignant reminder of how difficult reintegration is for veterans. Something as simple as a birthday party is overwhelming for a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Landing Home brings viewers along on the journey of a former soldier trying to reintegrate into civilian life. The obvious struggle Luke walks through is a heartbreaking reminder of the cost of war, as his story is an accurate depiction of a true veteran. Each episode is filled with moments that bring you deep inside to feel the effects of combat.

“We have a history as a nation of not taking care of our veterans, that goes back to the Revolution,” Taurel said. “It is a beautiful country, but it has been paid in blood. If we honored our veterans more, we’d think about war a whole lot differently. It’s easy to go to war when you aren’t involved.”

There’s another scene, in a bar that stands out. Luke is obviously struggling and an older gentleman sits beside him. A quiet and heavy silence sits in the air. Then the man says, “Where did you serve?” This moment stands out because one veteran immediately knew another and their fight, on sight.

“We owe our veterans so much. I think we’ve become selfish as a country. We’ve forgotten the people who have given us the liberties and freedoms we have,” Taurel explained. He continued, “That’s why I do the projects that I have, I want people to understand what service really means.”

The series does not hold back. The raw and true compilations of the experiences of America’s veterans in Landing Home will move you. Taurel hopes that viewers walk away with a deep understanding of what “Thank you for your service” really means.

You can watch Landing Home by going to Vimeo. To learn about the other work Taurel is involved in, click here.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Let’s dive deep into ‘Star Trek’ transporter technology

The internet is a giant dumpster fire but it is made slightly redeemable based on pop-culture content shared by your favorite Air Force vet random and completely unnecessary but much-needed gems like the reviews of the Three Wolf Moon shirt or everything surrounding the Storm Area 51 event.

The internet also gives us access to hot takes we never knew we needed, like Sean Kelly’s deepest, most pure thoughts on Star Trek transporters.
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In the Star Trek franchise, a matter transportation device — or “transporter” — dematerializes matter (humanoids, objects, etc) and sends their constituent particles in the form of energy to another location before reconverting them back to their original form.

It’s cool futuristic technology, but it also makes for convenient story-telling. Need to get your characters down to that strange alien ship? Energize away! Need to rescue them in the knick of time before a singularity in a planetary core destroys them all? Beam them up, Scotty, and don’t be a b**** about it!

But, as Kelly points out, there are some missed opportunities for the inhabitants of the many Star Trek worlds when it comes to transporter capabilities. Why? Well, because television is only entertaining when the characters have obstacles to overcome.
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Still, thanks to Kelly, we can debate the implications of transporter potential to our little hearts’ content. From medicinal achievements to murder, those transporters could do some crazy sh** if Star Trek writers wanted them to.

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I mean, Star Trek has very horny roots, so I’m honestly surprised this hasn’t happened yet. Maybe in Season 2 of Picard?

After mulling over some pretty basic possibilities for transporter use, Kelly starts to spiral exceptionally into Riker’s soul, Mirror Universe bisexuals, and rather creative weaponry implications.

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Not to mention the Ship of Theseus Paradox, which fans of The Prestige might be familiar with. The paradox poses the philosophical question about whether a ship that has systematically had all of its parts replaced is actually the same ship at the end of the journey. In other words, if a person’s matter is dematerialized, will that actual person rematerialize on the other end — or have they essentially died while their copy continues to live?

F*** it! Sign us up!

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MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Falcon & Winter Soldier’ episode 3: Reunions all around

As we reach the halfway point for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we’ve been given some great character moments and intriguing details into a post-Blip world. A Global Repatriation Council attempts to help the billions of people who have returned from the dead after five years, one of them being a doctor who perfected the Super Soldier Serum. 

Let’s dive in — spoilers ahead

The new Captain America takes a bit of a back seat in this week’s episode, but we do get a glance at his short fuse when he confronts some of Karli Morgenthau’s contacts and is rewarded with spit in his face. John Walker and his more even-tempered partner Lemar will remain a step behind Bucky and Sam this week.

As the last episode hinted, Bucky and Sam decide to contact Helmut Zemo and Bucky, unbeknownst to Sam, makes quick work of freeing Zemo from his cell. Maybe not a great decision, considering the man bombed the UN and killed Wakanda’s King T’Chaka before framing Bucky for the crimes — and he’s reading Machiavelli — but Zemo has knowledge about the Super Soldier Serum. 

Daniel Bruhl’s performance also makes Zemo a character who is entertaining to have around. 

They begin their search in Madripoor, a classic Marvel Comics location (primarily for mutant story-lines). There, they go undercover, delivering some excellent character fun. Sam is forced to drink “the usual” drink of his colorful alias — some kind of cocktail with raw snake organs (DEAR GOD WHY) — much to our amusement. Later when they flee the scene, he shouts, “I can’t run in these heels!” It’s a great writing touch. 

Bucky, meanwhile, plays the Winter Soldier, following Helmut’s commands — even when they are violent. Sebastian Stan’s performance as a battle-weary veteran is constantly impressive; Bucky’s inner turmoil is right there beneath the surface. 

When Sam’s cover is blown by a phone call from his sister, the unlikely trio flee with bounties on their heads. They’re saved by none other than Sharon Carter, albeit a much grittier, pissed off Sharon Carter, who has been on the run since giving Steve Rogers his shield (although with a brief five-year hiatus, as she was disintegrated in the Snap). And yo, she’s pissed about it.

Her outfit slaps, though. I want her pants. She agrees to help Sam and Bucky find Super Soldier Serum Dr. Nagle while Sam promises to clear her name. They head to Nagle’s secret lab in a shipment container yard, where they learn that Morgenthau stole his 20 vials of perfected serum. Zemo kills the doctor and the lab is attacked and destroyed, giving us impressive fight sequences from Carter and Zemo. 

Carter parts ways with Bucky and Sam, but based on her final interaction with her bodyguard, we can expect to see her again. Bucky, Sam, and Zemo follow another lead, but rather than join them inside, Bucky announces that he’s going to take a walk. He follows a few devices that turn out to be Wakandan, and the episode ends with another familiar face.

Ayo, second-in-command of the Dora Milaje, has come for the man who killed T’Chaka. What will happen on the Falcon and the Winter Soldier next?

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