The 7 best military stories from the glory days of 'Unsolved Mysteries' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Anyone over the age of 25 was likely forever scarred by the combination of a creepy TV theme song and the voice of a classic film actor telling us about how we could be living our normal lives one moment, and then suddenly be abducted by aliens, shot by a stranger, or murdered by ghosts the next. Once you join the military, you might think you’re safe from being a walking potential story on Unsolved Mysteries. But you’d be wrong. The best you can really hope for is a quicker “update” segment.


 

1. Paul Whipkey

In Season 3, Episode 21, Unsolved Mysteries showed the story of Lt. Paul Whipkey, a promising young officer whose health was affected by the atomic testing projects he worked on. One day, he decided to drive to Monterey, Calif., just one mile from his base at Fort Ord. He disappeared and was never seen again.

His car was found abandoned in the middle of Death Valley. The Army says he was stressed about his assignment so he left the car and walked into the desert, where he likely died. His family and friends obviously take exception to this theory for a number of reasons.

First, the Army declared him a deserter and didn’t even begin searching for him or his body for eight months. His commander remembered Lt. Whipkey talking with plainclothes officials. The men had IDs but did not show which agency they represented. Whipkey then alluded to a career move, where he would “make a name for himself,” just before he disappeared.

Just 11 days later, Whipkey’s best friend Lt. Charlie Guess died in a plane crash, where his remains were found among plane wreckage different from the tail number of the plane he took off in.

Whipkey’s car was seen by locals after his disappearance, but it was driven by a man in uniform, which Whipkey was not wearing when he left the base. And next to the car was found was a pile of cigarette butts. Paul Whipkey did not smoke.

His family and friends believe Paul was recruited by the CIA to go one secret operations and that he likely died in the CIA’s service.

2. Edward Zakrzewski

This one was a pretty straightforward case, but when it first aired on the sixth episode of Unsolved Mysteries‘ seventh season, former USAF Tech. Sgt. Edward Zakzrewski was featured as a fugitive, wanted for the murder of his wife and two kids.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

 

Zakzrewski and his wife were living in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. when she was found murdered to death on June 13, 1994 (according the the show, she was stabbed but the newspapers say she was bludgeoned with a crowbar). The two had been having marital problems and she was planning to leave him.

This story was creepy as hell when it first aired, but…

UPDATE:

He fled to Hawaii and turned himself in after the family he was staying saw his story the night it aired. As of 2016 he’s been on death row for 20 years.

3. Justin Bergwinkel

In season 7, episode 19, Unsolved Mysteries told us about Justin Bergwinkel, who went AWOL from the Army and was never seen again. He began language training for the Army Rangers, but washed out of the program before being sent to Fort Ord, California, where he became a cook.

He began dating a local student, Iolanda Antunes, and all seemed well for the most part. Until it wasn’t. He would drive to visit her but would randomly say he had to return to base. Other times, he would be bizarrely secretive about a briefcase he was always carrying.

Justin was soon transferred to Washington State, but would still come visit Iolanda. After Iolanda received a strange call telling Justin “the mission is off” he suddenly went back to his duty station. Things seemed to calm down. His parents were getting calls where he claimed to be doing well and that everything was fine. I think you can guess that things were not fine.

Burgwinkel purchased two handguns at this time, along 100 rounds of ammunition. On Friday, June 4, 1993, he failed to report for duty at 0430. He was declared AWOL but was not hiding. He called his duty section from Iolanda’s apartment. He called his parents and told them he was working and not AWOL – he was doing something important.

Eight days later, he left Iolanda’s apartment and never came back. He only ever alluded to the movie White Sands, a film about gunrunning, and then disappeared. His car was abandoned at a beachfront motel near Monterrey, where it had been for three months.

The briefcase with his wallet, car keys, and military ID were found in the trunk. He did not stay at the motel.

4. Chad Langford

The story of Spc. Langford was featured in Season 5, Episode 20. Langford was an MP stationed at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. On a pretty normal night, he was doing his usual patrol of the base when he radioed for assistance. When backup arrived, they found his radio, armband, and ID in the middle of the road. Down the street, Langford’s near-lifeless body was found outside his patrol car, shot in the head.

Langford’s sidearm lanyard was wrapped around his ankles, the radar cable around his neck, handcuffs on his left wrist, and his sidearm under his left shoulder. He died later that evening. The Army ruled it a suicide.

His family was outraged. Langford’s father Jim said he claimed to be doing undercover anti-drug stings for the Army. Fellow soldiers told Army criminal investigators that Chad was the ringleader of an attempt to rob the PX. The Army also maintained he was hurt about a recent breakup with his girlfriend and changed his lifestyle to fit a different narrative before taking his own life.

But his girlfriend says the breakup was initiated by Chad because his work was too much for him to share with her. When she last saw him, he was wearing different “gang-style” clothes and hanging with “unsavory” characters.

Chad’s family believes the evidence at the scene doesn’t match the Army’s story and that certain evidence, such as fingerprints and bullets to match the shell casings on the scene, was never found.

Though the Army reviewed the case after the broadcast, Chad Langford’s death remains officially a suicide.

5. Mark Dennis

In 1966, Corpsman Mark Dennis left Ohio for Vietnam. He thought it would be good for his future as a missionary. Dong Ha, Mark’s station, was a hotspot at the time. In July of that year, he was on a helicopter that was shot down with only three survivors. Mark was not one of them. The Navy suggested they not view his remains due to the condition of his body.

On Nov. 30, 1970, Newsweek published a photo of an unknown POW…one that looked just like Mark Dennis.

 

But the Navy determined it was someone else, a POW already documented. When the family requested his Navy death certificate, they found that Mark’s body was the only one not positively identified because it was burned beyond recognition. It was deemed Mark though the process of elimination.

That’s when Steve Wilcox, a Navy dental tech who was friends with Mark in boot camp, told the family of a friend from Mark’s unit. This friend told Wilcox that neither his corpsman material nor his dog tags were found in the crash and that there weren’t 13 bodies recovered.

The Dennis family then exhumed the body. The remains were covered by his uniform, and then a blanket. Pinned to the blanket was his dog tags, as per regulation. When his brother (a fire expert) examined the dog tag, he found them to be brand new and the burn markings inconsistent with a crash burn.

A privately-funded forensic analysis of the remains show a man five inches shorter than Mark Dennis. Furthermore, the body in the coffin was not burned by JP-4 fuel, but with regular gasoline. The family and his unit believe Mark never died that day.

Mark Dennis was not repatriated with other POWs when the war ended in 1973.

6. David Cox

This one is the true story of William Alvarado, who was nearly killed during a hazing incident, known as a “code red” for writing a Senator about Marine misconduct. You may recognize this story from A Few Good Men, because that’s movie based on these events.

The squad leader, David Cox, was convicted only of simple assault, claiming he was following an “implied order” from a superior officer. When the movie came out, he felt he was maligned in the film – after all, in real life, no one died. He and other Marines filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers.

As time passed, David moved in with his girlfriend and was hoping to get a job at UPS. That’s when he disappeared. One day, his girlfriend came home to find all the doors open, an uncashed paycheck in his truck, keys in the ignition, and a gun in the glove box.

Four months later, his body was found five miles from his apartment, cash and credit cards in his wallet. He was shot four times, execution style, while wearing his Marine Corps jacket (which he never wore). Investigators believe he knew his killer and went along willingly.

David’s mother warned he was too outspoken about U.S. activities in Cuba, especially in his high-profile days following the release of A Few Good Men. His former defense attorney believes his murder was related to the military, given the proximity to hunting ranges (where gunshots would be normal), and his choice of military attire.

The murder remains unsolved.

7. Joe O’Brien

Season 8, episode 1 brought us the story of Joe O’Brien, who had a vivid dream about being held prisoner in a cold cell, with only a striped blanket. His wrists were in terrible pain and even when he woke up, he found his hands sore and red.

Joe was worried about his friend Mohammed “Sammy” Mubarak, a Kuwaiti fighter pilot who was fighting in Operation Desert Storm. In the weeks following his vivid dream, Iraq surrendered.

Sammy came to visit Joe over Christmas the following year. Joe told Sammy of his strange dream and how the pain stayed with him for so long. Sammy told Joe his dream was Sammy’s reality – Sammy was held prisoner by the Iraqis on the same day.

Everything Joe saw in his dream, from the hand pain to the pattern of the blanket, was what Sammy lived as a POW.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

Warning: Major spoilers below. Do not read if you haven’t seen “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Director Jon Watts calls “Spider-Man: Far From Home” a “con movie,” and if you’ve seen it already, you know exactly why. The movie uses the audience’s collective knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to present a story that completely messes with their heads.

From the real motives of the movie’s villain, Quentin Beck (aka, Mysterio; played by Jake Gyllenhaal), to the surprise cameos, “Far From Home” is a rapid-fire series of twists, all the way to the post-credit scene.

And Watts said that sleight-of-hand feel was ingrained in the project from the development phase — which began just weeks after “Spider-Man: Homecoming” opened in theaters in 2017 — because of the movie’s villain.


“It was such a core concept because it’s Mysterio’s whole philosophy,” Watts told INSIDER. “When you’re dealing with a character who works in illusions and deception, that’s going to be one of the major themes.”

So Watts beefed up on his con movies, specifically spending a lot of time studying “The Sting” and “The Usual Suspects,” and embarked on telling a unique Marvel movie, one where almost everything is not what it seems.

Below, Watts gave INSIDER insight on 6 of the biggest spoilers in “Far From Home,” including stuff you may not catch until you see the movie again.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Jay Maidment/Sony Pictures)

1. The moment Watts knew the bar scene, in which Peter Parker hands over the E.D.I.T.H. glasses to Mysterio, would work.

Halfway through the movie — after Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Mysterio defeat one of the Elementals — the two have a celebratory drink at a bar. The scene gradually becomes a dramatic moment in which Peter Parker questions if he has what it takes to be a superhero like his idol, Iron Man. He even doubts if he’s worthy to have the high-tech E.D.I.T.H. glasses that Tony Stark had Nick Fury give him earlier in the movie. By the end of the scene, Parker hands Mysterio the glasses, which have an AI embedded in them that can power all of Stark Industries’ weapons.

But once Parker walks out of the bar, it’s revealed that Mysterio played a huge trick on him. The bar was actually an illusion. Many of the patrons were working for Mysterio and the decor was all artificially projected by clones (they were actually sitting in an abandoned storefront). It was all a con job to get the glasses from Parker so Mysterio could have control of Stark’s high-tech weapons. Even the Elementals Spidey was battling was an illusion put together by Mysterio.

The ambitious scene was one Watts knew had to hit perfectly with the audience if the movie was going to work.

“The movie hinges on that scene,” Watts said. “It’s a culmination of Mysterio’s con. I anticipate that a lot of people will know that Mysterio is the villain, they aren’t just exactly sure how or why.”

Watts said there were not multiple versions of the scene shot. What you see in the movie is how the scene was scripted. And though he spent months with the screenwriters getting the scene to feel right, he wasn’t convinced it would work until Holland and Gyllenhaal got their hands on it.

“What’s great about working with actors like Tom and Jake is that they bring it to life,” he said. “They have to make sure that none of it feels false. I remember the first time we ran it, we tweaked a couple of lines but as soon as they started going through it between the two of them, it was a huge relief for me. It was one of those moments where you have talked about it a lot and prepared so much, but it has to come to life with the actors or the whole movie feels false.”

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Sony Pictures)

2. The bar scene is also filled with hidden messages to influence Peter Parker to give up the glasses.

The whole trick with the bar scene is Mysterio has to get the glasses without ever asking for them. Peter has to be the one who hands them over. Watts said to drive that home, along with watching how classic con movies from the past have done it, he also studied how deception is done on people in real life. And his major takeaway was visual persuasion.

“You may not have caught this, but all the things on the wall behind Quentin [in the bar scene] are things that feed into the idea that Peter would hand the glasses over to him,” Watts said. “So even the art direction is part of the con. There’s military medals, that sort of helps remind Peter what Quentin said about being a hero soldier. There’s a picture of glasses, again, embedding that idea. So there are all these things in the background of the bar in Peter’s eye line that will subconsciously motivate him to hand these glasses over.”

Did you catch any of those visuals? Keep an eye out for them in the bar scene next time you see the movie.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Sony Pictures)

3. The origin of “The Blip” term.

One of the funniest moments in the opening of the movie is the reveal of the term “The Blip,” which refers to people who were affected by Thanos’ snap that happened in “Avengers: Infinity War” and then came back after the events in “Avengers: Endgame.”

Watts said it was something that they came up with while writing the movie.

“We had our own logic,” he said. “‘The Snap’ was what made everyone disappear, but for everyone who came back it was like no time had passed. So we felt, ‘It’s just like a blip to them.’ That’s just how we started talking about the passage of time. And we also felt it was just a funny phrase to refer to this devastating event.”

And thanks to the term, a running joke came out of it.

Though The Blip felt like just moments for people affected, they were actually gone for five years. So they came back five years older. It does wonders for one of Peter Parker’s high-school classmates, Brad (Remy Hii). Pre-blip he was a short geek, but in those five years, he hit puberty and post-blip he’s a hunky stud clashing with Parker for MJ’s (Zendaya) affection.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Marvel)

4. Quentin Beck is behind some of the most memorable Stark Industries tech, but never got the credit.

Another great thing about the bar scene is that it gives us Mysterio’s backstory. And it’s steeped in MCU lore.

It turns out he’s the one who created B.A.R.F., the binary augmented retro-framing tech Stark shows off in the beginning of “Captain America: Civil War” — though it was Stark who came up with the silly name (and took the credit).

Mysterio’s past in the movie is a little different than his origin in the comics. In the pages of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Quentin Beck is a special-effects wiz and stunt man who turns to crime when his dreams of making it big in Hollywood fizzle out. But for the movie, Watts realized that Beck would fit perfectly in the MCU if he made him a bitter former employee at Stark Industries.

“The idea around that was we knew Quentin would have a relationship with Tony,” he said. “The illusion tech that Quentin uses, we’ve actually seen it in the Marvel universe from the beginning. Tony has always dealt with holographic tech, but it’s never been said who made it. And then it really comes to the fore in ‘Civil War.’ But Tony didn’t make it. He doesn’t build all the Stark tech on his own, there’s a whole organization that does it. So we thought that would be how Mysterio pulls this all off. Once that clicked, then we just decided he would have a team of disgruntled Stark Industries employees. We used that B.A.R.F. flashback as a jumping-off point.”

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Columbia Pictures)

5. The return of J. Jonah Jameson.

The mid-credit scene in “Far From Home” is a fun moment for those who were fans of the Sam Raimi movies, as the beloved character J. Jonah Jameson makes a cameo. And like those movies from the early aughts, actor J.K. Simmons returned to play the role.

In the scene, Jameson is not the loud-mouthed editor of the Daily Bugle, but a loud-mouthed host of an Alex Jones-like TV show. In the middle of Manhattan, Jameson appears on a billboard and shows shocking footage of Mysterio, just before his death (which he doctored to make it look like Spider-Man killed him), revealing the true identity of Spider-Man: Peter Parker.

“It made so much sense in the context of the story we were telling,” Watts said of bringing back Jameson. “We knew we wanted Mysterio to be the one who revealed Peter’s identity and it had to be on the news, so we felt if it’s on the news it has to be the Daily Bugle, and if it’s going to be the Daily Bugle, it has to be J.K. Simmons. There was never any question about. And if he didn’t do it, we weren’t going to do it. We would have come up with something else.”

But why make Jameson a TV personality? Watts said putting him on TV instead of overseeing a newspaper was just commenting on the times we live in today.

“He’s still doing a very similar character to what he was doing in the Sam Raimi movies, but now there’s just a real-world comparison that there wasn’t before,” he said. “It’s less that he has changed and more that the world has changed.”

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Disney)

6. Nick Fury and Maria Hill were really Skrulls.

“You didn’t see that one coming, right?” Watts asked with a laugh.

We certainly did not. In the scene that immediately follows the end credits, we are given the movie’s biggest con: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. member Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) were really Skrulls the entire movie. Yes, Skrulls, those shape-shifting beings we were introduced to in “Captain Marvel.”

It turns out Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and one of his compatriots came to Earth with instructions from Fury (who we learn is lounging out in space on a big ship) to hand deliver the E.D.I.T.H. glasses to Peter Parker. Clearly things got a little complicated. But it is a fun coda for a movie that completely messes with the audience.

“Once you get into the vocabulary of a con man movie like this, I feel you have more leeway to just keep doing reversals like that,” Watts said. “Everyone is lying. Everyone is hiding something. No one is who they seem. It just made sense that at the end of it we would do this. As we were developing the story, there was always a lingering question of, ‘But, how could anyone fool Nick Fury? His super power is being skeptical.’ But we knew he needed to be fooled in order to make the story work. So as soon as I saw ‘Captain Marvel’ it became obvious how we do it.”

Watts added: “When you watch the movie again with this knowledge about the Skrulls there are some fun things you will catch, especially Fury’s dialogue.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Articles

What Hollywood gets wrong about military stories

EDITOR’S NOTE: This op/ed by We Are The Mighty co-founder and CEO David Gale originally appeared on the Hollywood Reporter website on May 22, 2017.


In honor of National Military Appreciation Month in May, I decided to re-watch William Wyler’s 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, which follows three WWII servicemen facing the challenges of transitioning to civilian life. The film won seven Academy Awards, including best picture, and proves that a well-told, honest and authentic story is still the most powerful way to instill empathy and provide some understanding of even the most complex emotions and human experiences.

While our military is still a quintessential part of American culture, today’s Hollywood rarely gets it right, often resorting to stereotypes and common tropes to portray veterans as either dysfunctional misfits or larger-than-life heroes. Perhaps this misconception is an expected result when less than 1 percent of our population is currently in uniform. Those who come home to work in the entertainment industry, are more likely to be offered jobs making coffee and copying scripts, than to encounter an employer who authentically appreciates and values the leadership, skills and responsibilities of military service.

While there is a handful of successful vets in this business, most notably Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCU, in my 30 years in entertainment, I never met an executive who served in the military and who has responsibility for making important creative decisions. This, even though we have been at war for 16 years and millions of veterans have returned home. While some studios and networks have helpful veteran hiring programs, and nonprofits such as Veterans in Film and Television are there to support veterans who work in this industry, there are few clear paths for vets to move into the creative and executive ranks of the business.

On the contrary, the cast and crew of The Best Years of Our Lives had veterans in nearly every major creative position. Wyler, the director, served in the Army National Guard; actor Fredric March served in the Army; the author of the book on which the film was based, MacKinlay Kantor, was a war correspondent who flew on bombing missions over Europe; Robert Sherwood, the screenwriter, fought with the Royal Highlanders of Canada; and Daniel Mandell, the film’s Academy Award winning editor, served in the Marines. Gregg Toland, the film’s acclaimed cinematographer, was a lieutenant in the Navy’s camera department; he also co-directed with John Ford a documentary about the attack on Pearl Harbor. And, of course, Harold Russell, who won the best supporting actor Oscar, was a WWII veteran and double hand amputee.

War and homecoming are undoubtedly part of the American experience, yet according to a study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, 84 percent of post-9/11 veterans believe that the American public has no understanding of the difficulties facing this current generation of veterans and military families. While we cannot expect the average person to comprehend what it is like to serve in the military, we can expect the media to do more to find and empower the storytellers who have served. Making sure veterans have more opportunities to play meaningful roles in entertainment and media is the best way for us all to begin to have some understanding of our military community and the challenges they face. This will allow us to discover the kind of extraordinary talent this next great generation has to offer. Not only is this good for our veterans, it is good for business; The Best Years of Our Lives was a huge financial success. In a time of perpetual conflict, in which so few are asked to do so much for so many, getting veterans right is also good for our country.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘War Dogs’ is what a junior enlisted gun-running empire would look like

Imagine the two most ballsy but also kind of dimwitted members of your squad — the Pvt. Snuffys and Lance Cpl. Schmuckatellis of the world.


Now imagine them in civilian clothes with millions of dollars. Take it one step further and imagine that they have those millions of dollars because they’ve become international arms dealers who sell to the Department of Defense.

That’s what the Warner Bros. movie, “War Dogs” is like. It follows Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, two civilians who desperately want to be rich and live the good life. Diveroli is a stoner and the heir to a modest family business re-selling weapons bought at police auctions online. Packouz is his pothead buddy.

 

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
Efraim Diveroli, played by Jonah Hill, enjoys his chance to fire a Kalashnikov while purchasing weapons for the Afghan security forces. (Photo: courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

The movie is based on the real story of Diveroli and Packouz as detailed in Rolling Stone article that later became a book, Arms and the Dudes.

These two kids find a way to act as middlemen for the U.S. government when it purchases arms for Iraqi, Afghan and other allied militaries. They go on to fedbizopps.gov — a real website where the government lists available contracts — and try to outbid defense corporations for contracts to provide light bulbs, ammunition and any other supplies the military needs.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, party with Packouz’s wife at a company event to celebrate the arms dealers’ successes. (Photo: courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

As their business, AEY Inc., grows, they bid on larger and larger contracts. Without giving any of the movie’s big surprises away, the two gun runners get in over their heads the same way Pvt. Snuffy and Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli would. The guy who directed The Hangover, Todd Phillips, also directed War Dogs — and it shows.

Diveroli and Packouz’s misadventures in international arms dealing are a lot of fun to watch as they alternate between partying, firing powerful weapons and getting caught in dangerous jams by their inexperience. In one memorable scene, they’re left racing through the Iraqi desert with a smuggler as insurgents attempt to kill them and steal their cargo — a literal truckload of Beretta pistols.

For obvious reasons, a movie about gun runners during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s spends a bit of time with the U.S. military. While the film doesn’t get everything exactly right, it does seem to capture the spirit of bored soldiers pretty well. A mounted patrol saves the gun runners at one point, but the first driver immediately flips the bird at the stupid civilians he just had to pull out of a jam.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, stand in a warehouse of cash managed by the U.S. Army in Iraq. (Photo: courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

 

The crux of the movie is a $300-million deal to arm the Afghan security forces for years, a real contract that AEY won in January 2007. That’s where the film gets tense as the bumbling dealers attempt to buy millions of rounds, thousands of missiles and grenades and tons of other equipment from former Soviet Bloc mobsters.

Despite the serious nature of arms dealing, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are funny and enjoyable as Diveroli and Packouz. The movie provides an entertaining look at what goes on behind the scenes to arm both U.S. troops and allies around the world, and delves into the shady underbelly of that world while being fun instead of preachy. It’s available to watch on Amazon video if you need to kill some time!

MIGHTY MOVIES

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

It’s no secret that Hollywood has a knack for getting the military wrong in war movies. Whether it’s diverging from reality in movies that are “based on a true story” or it’s pretending grenades create massive fireballs when they explode, the movie industry will always favor drama and spectacular visuals over realism… and to be totally honest, I’m cool with that.

Over the years, I’ve devoted a great deal of my professional life to analyzing the way narratives take shape in the public consciousness. I’ve dug into how different nations leverage media to affect public perceptions (I even wrote a book about it). I’ve explored the ways cultural touchstones like exchanging engagement rings manifested inorganically in corporate board rooms. I’ve even pointed out the ways World War II propaganda still shapes our dietary choices. That’s a long-winded way of saying that my professional interests have long been tied to exploring the undercurrent in mass communications, and further analyzing the ways that undercurrent can shape our perspectives of the world.


With the understanding that I’ve devoted so much of my time to exploring the narrative behind messaging, you can probably imagine that I can be a real party pooper when it comes to watching war movies. Like most vets, I get frustrated when I see uniforms worn incorrectly or when dialogue between service members feels forced or clunky… but unlike many vets, I also can’t help but look past the surface level messaging to try to figure out what filmmakers are trying to say with their choices in presentation.

Film, like any art form, is really an exercise in evoking emotion. When we really love a movie, it’s almost always because we loved the way the movie made us feel as we watched it. Whether we were excited by incredible action sequences or we were enraptured by a budding romance, it’s the experience, our experience, that we actually cherish. Good filmmakers know that, so they often choose to place a larger emphasis on creating an experience than they do on recreating a realistic event. Good movies aren’t good because they’re real–in other words–they’re good because the feelings they create are.

When a movie sucks, however, it’s usually because the director fails to evoke real emotions in the viewer. Bad filmmaking can be just as realistic or unrealistic as good filmmaking. Warner Brother’s famously bad “Green Lantern” movie, as a good example, is often made fun of for its use of an entirely CGI costume on Ryan Reynolds. You might think that’s because CGI costumes are just too unrealistic to be taken seriously… until you realize that most of the costumes you see in the wildly successful Marvel movies are entirely CGI as well. The difference isn’t that one is realistic while the other isn’t–the difference is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is better at making you care about its characters. Iron Man’s CGI suit simply becomes set-dressing for the character that you’re emotionally invested in.

Marvel isn’t the only studio to get the feeling right, even when it gets facts or realism wrong. In fact, there are a number of war movies that manage the same feat.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Warner Brothers)

Full Metal Jacket (the first half)

Marines, in particular, tend to hold the first half of Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” in high esteem, and we tend to disregard the second half of the movie as an auteur opining about Vietnam (in a way that doesn’t leave the audience nearly as invested in the characters). Depending on who you ask, they’ll tell you that Marine recruit training is exactly like the movie or not like it at all–and that likely has a lot to do with individual experiences and feelings from one’s own time at the depots.

But whether you ever had to choke yourself with a drill instructor’s hand or not, most Marines feel a distinct kinship with J.T. “Joker” Davis’ platoon. It’s safe to say that most of us didn’t see a fellow recruit shoot our drill instructor in the bathroom (or head, as we call it), but that scene does capture something about recruit training that’s not easy to articulate. For many of us, Marine Recruit Training is the first place we’d ever been where violence is a commodity. We’re learning to fight, to kill, and when you begin broaching the subject in your mind, the experience can be jarring. I recall distinctly the first time I ever truly thought about taking another person’s life and what it would entail, and it was inside a squad bay just like the one you see in “Full Metal Jacket.”

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Paramount Pictures)

The Hunt for Red October

If we’re grading war movies on realism, it would be tough to gloss over the fact that Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius is a Russian submarine captain that talks with a thick Scottish accent. But in terms of capturing the reality of the Cold War as a feeling, “Red October” hits the nail right on the head.

In real life, would we pull a CIA analyst out of his cubicle and drop him into the ocean to climb aboard a nuclear submarine hot on the tail of a rogue Russian captain? Probably not–but by doing so in the film, “The Hunt for Red October” effectively captured the sense of urgency, confusion, and distrust that characterized so much of the Cold War for both American and Soviet officials. Many defense initiatives in the U.S. were driven by concerns that the Soviet’s had developed a technological or strategic advantage, and in a real way, intelligent men and women like Jack Ryan devoted their entire lives to both offsetting those perceived capability gaps, and of course, to preventing nuclear war amid an international, nuclear-fueled, staring contest.

“The Hunt for Red October” may not be the most realistic exploration of Cold War tensions, but it expertly crafts the feeling that permeated the defense community throughout the conflict.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Universal Pictures)

Jarhead

I won’t lie to you, I still take great issue with certain elements of “Jarhead” — specifically its depiction of Marines as singularly driven by the desire to take lives. However, as an exploration into the emotional ride that is Marine training and service, the desire to get a confirmed kill in “Jarhead’s” second act that I find so abrasive actually perfectly captures the feelings so many service members and veterans have about not seeing combat.

The vast majority of people in the military never take that “kill shot” “Jarhead’s” Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is so focused on, and to be honest, lots of service members wouldn’t want to–but therein lies the point. “Jarhead” is a war movie that tells the story of training extensively for a job that you never get to do, and then returning to a world full of other people’s expectations that you know, inside your head, you’ll never amount to.

Lots of veterans find that they don’t feel “veteran enough” after their time in uniform is up. Maybe they didn’t see combat, or they didn’t see as much combat as others. Maybe their job had them mopping floors in Japan instead of kicking in doors in Iraq, or maybe they never left the wire during their time in the sandbox. Whatever the reason, many veterans (and even active service members) carry a chip on their shoulder created by society’s expectation that we all return home like John Rambo. The truth is, every veteran is veteran enough–but “Jarhead” does an excellent job of sharing that insecurity on film.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

(Sony Pictures)

Tears of the Sun

This nearly forgotten 2003 action drama starred Bruce Willis as Lieutenant Waters, a U.S. Navy SEAL charged with leading his team into Nigeria to evacuate a U.S. citizen and medical doctor amid a bloody coup d’etat. When Waters and his SEAL team arrive, however, the doctor refuses to leave without the rest of the members of her small community who will likely be wiped out by rebel soldiers in the area.

What follows is a fairly unrealistic depiction of how military operations are carried out, complete with bloody last stand on the nation’s border in which many of the SEALs ultimately give their lives to protect the fleeing civilians. The movie is, to be honest, some pretty heavy handed American military propaganda (honestly, some of the best war movies are), but it’s precisely because of that arguably jingoistic idealism that this movie so effectively captures the feeling that drives so many of us to sign our enlistment papers.

Most folks in the military chose to join because of a combination of personal interest and idealism. We could use a good job, some help with college, and benefits for our families–but we also want to make a difference in the world. We want to help protect not just our nation’s people, but the ideals our nation represents. “Tears of the Sun” is a story about American service members giving up their lives to do what’s right, and because of that, it strikes the patriotic chord in many of us in a way that resonates deeply, even if the movie itself isn’t a masterclass in filmmaking.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY MOVIES

‘The Mandalorian’ season 2 episode 3 blew my skirt up

After last week’s disaster of an episode, The Mandalorian brought its A-game, and some major fan-favorites, to Chapter 11: The Heiress. Spoilers ahead.

Din Djarin, the Child and Frog Lady make it safely to the watery moon of Tresk, where Djarin’s passenger is reunited with Frog Man at long last. Let the fertilization begin! Djarin and the Yoda Baby head to a restaurant for some chowder (some living chowder…why??) and information, where the Mon Calamari server tells Djarin where he can find the other Mandalorians.

I had to.

Turns out, those sumbitches were trying to murder the Yoda Baby and our Mandalorian! They kick the baby basket into the cage of a watery-sarlacc looking thing, prompting Djarin to dive in after him. Luckily for him, not one but three Beskar-armored fighters come to his rescue (and Ludwig Göransson’s score is, per usual, fantastic).

I am begging for this spin-off. (Mandalorian | Disney+)

His rescuers include Bo-Katan of Clan Kryze, whom fans may recognize from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Played by Katee Sackhoff (who also voiced the animated character), Bo-Katan is a Mandalorian whose past includes run-ins with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul; she became Lady of House Kryze and Regent of Mandalore after overthrowing Maul, but she was deposed when she refused to submit to Emperor Palpatine. 

Upon removing their helmets, they explained to Djarin that he is a “Child of the Watch,” which she described as a cult of religious zealots who broke away from Mandalorian society with the goal of reestablishing the ancient way. Until this point, he’d believed that all Mandalorians were like him — but Bo-Katan offers a new path.

He remains committed to his mission of returning the Yoda Baby to the Jedi; Bo-Katan promises to take him to a Jedi — but first she needs his help raiding an Imperial ship for weapons. Here, director Bryce Dallas Howard delivers some nostalgic battle scenes, with blaster fire against Stormtroopers in ship corridors. 

During the skirmish, we learn that its commanding officer (played by Titus Welliver) would rather destroy it — along with everything and everyone on board — than see it in the hands of the Mandalore “pirates.” Bo-Katan isn’t satisfied with their findings or the deaths of her enemy. She’s looking for something more: The Darksaber, an ancient black-bladed lightsaber passed down to her to rule Mandalore. It fell into the hands of Moff Gideon during the Great Purge of the Mandalorians.

With a common enemy, I expect we’ll see more of Clan Kryze; but for now, she and Djarin part ways after she tells him he can find a Jedi by the name of Ashoka Tano, a Star Wars: The Clone Wars fan-favorite long-rumored to be played by Rosario Dawson.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

Because we have to pay our respects.

MIGHTY GAMING

6 reasons why it would suck to be a Stormtrooper in Star Wars

With release dates just around the corner for the new film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and game, Battlefront II, it’s time to fill that Game of Thrones-sized hole in our hearts.


Related: This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about squad composition.

Out of all of the troops in the Star Wars canon, no one has it worse than the Stormtrooper. The Clones of the prequel saga were beloved across the Galactic Republic despite having numbers around the same as Eritrea’s military (both at 200,000). And the rebels had somewhat stable living conditions and maintained some form of identity.

But it’s the Imperial Stormtroopers and the First Order Stormtroopers that truly embrace the suck. Still, First Order Stormtroopers have been training since they were born, which is terrible in and of itself. The Stormtroopers of the original trilogy enlisted like troops today and would then realize their Imperial recruiter lied to them.

1. Loss of comrades

With 1,179,293 deaths on the first Death Star and 2,471,647 deaths on the second Death Star, roughly 120 on-screen deaths, and god knows how many Imperials have died elsewhere in the series, it’s fair to say that if you’re a Stormtrooper, death is all around you.

Troopers who would survive would be damaged by survivor’s guilt. The deaths of their comrades, best friends, and squad mates may not mean anything on the scale of the Galactic Empire, but it would devastate the surviving trooper.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
(Image via Funnyjunk)

2. No identity

Every Stormtrooper dons the signature white armor. Only differences would be by rank and position.

All of this would be more apparent when officers over you keep their identity and maintain far more privileges than the average buckethead.

The lost of one’s identity can be detrimental to their mental health. Being forced to work until exhaustion, training constantly (they’d have to, right? They’re formations are impeccable), constant control by higher-ups and other rigors of being a soldier without the benefit of “off-time” would be disastrous.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
I refuse to believe that every one of these Troopers avoided locking their knees and passed out. (Film by 20th Century Fox)

3. Chain of command would be at their throat

Speaking of constant control by higher-ups, the expression “sh*t rolls down hill” would take on a whole new meaning for Stormtroopers.

While in the novels and comics, Darth Vader is seen personally earning the loyalty of his troops, the same could not be said of the rest of a Stormtrooper’s chain of command.

In the real-world military, a threat from a General officer to the next echelon down is taken seriously, even if the consequence is a stern talking to. That rolls into more dire consequences until Article 15’s are tossed around like candy. Now imagine how that would multiply if the General knew he would be force choked in a board meeting for a slight mistake.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
This meme is true… from a certain point of view. (Meme via Twitter)

4. Acclimatization to new planets

Being deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Campbell, Kentucky can take some time to adjust for a U.S. soldier.

Now imagine going from Tatooine to Hoth to Endor. The suit may help with the weather, but the changes in gravity, atmosphere, and day length would still take its toll on a trooper. Expect to go to a new planet many times within the span of a few weeks.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
Yeah. Iraq could totally be Tatooine… wait… those brown marks… OH GOD! Please don’t tell me they had burn pits too! (Film by 20th Century Fox)

5. All of the ways physics would screw you over

Neil deGrasse Tyson would probably have a field day with this.

The science of Star Wars is still fairly vague. The series is more about the adventure than the theoretical physics. Throwing E=MC^2 out the window for a bit, allows nothing with mass to reach the speed of light (if not faster) without a power supply with infinite energy output — let’s keep this going.

The Galactic Empire governs the entirety of the galaxy, all 14,670 light years across. Because even if they could travel faster than the speed of light, everything on the planets would stay the same.

Getting from the capital of Coruscant to the other end of the galaxy on Tatooine would mean hundreds of lifetimes passed while you blinked. An order given on Hoth would take eons to reach Bespin.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case in the Star Wars franchise, meaning everyone is traveling faster than scientifically possible. What would that do to a body? (The answer: nothing good.)

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
Good luck at the Imperial VA… (Image via Reddit)

6. Aiming

And the most commonly attributed trait among the Stormtroopers is their terrible aim.

The first moments we see them they can gun down the rebels on the cruiser with ease. Every battle shown with nameless rebel characters, they shoot perfectly fine. Even a former General in the Clone Army, Obi-wan Kenobi, says “These blast points… Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.”

You miss shooting a princess one time — a princess who is also your boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ daughter, who your orders are to capture alive, and needs to stay alive so the tracking device can lead your moon-sized planet destroyer over the entire enemy base — you’re forever labeled as having sh*tty aim. No respect for just doing your job.

Other than that moment, they have no problem shooting Princess Leia. Once with a stun laser at the beginning of New Hope and again at the Battle of Endor.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
Existence is pain to a Stormtrooper. (Image via Reddit)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Everything Disney just announced in the ‘Star Wars’ lineup

The Walt Disney Company lit up the internet on Dec. 10, announcing exciting new projects for Marvel, NatGeo, ESPN, Pixar, and more. But let’s talk about what’s important: Star Wars.

The Star Wars galaxy is expanding into new feature films, live action series, and animated series, so let’s go over everything that’s coming in 2021 and beyond.

1. Rangers of the New Republic

The first of two spinoffs to The Mandalorian, Rangers of the New Republic will take place during the timeline of the Mandalorian. Not much is known about who these rangers will be (my vote is for a Bo-Katan series…others might be hoping for more Timothy Olyphant) but it is rumored to contain crossover events with its sister series, which leads us to…

2. Ahsoka

Chapter 13 of The Mandalorian was just too good to not be a backdoor pilot. Ahsoka Tano, a beloved Jedi drop-out from The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, will be played by Rosario Dawson as she tracks down Grand Admiral Thrawn.

3. Andor

Starring Diego Luna once more as the titular Cassian Andor (from Rogue One), Andor has already begun filming in London and is set to release in 2022. Watch the trailer above for what few glimpses we’ve been given so far!

4. Obi-Wan Kenobi

We knew that Ewan McGregor would reprise his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi, but now we know that he will be joined by Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader. Set to take place 10 years after Revenge of the Sith (and nine years before A New Hope), the announcement of Vader definitely makes things interesting! 

5. The Bad Batch

Fans of The Clone Wars should be excited about The Bad Batch, and if we’ve learned anything from The Mandalorian, it’s that the events of Clone Wars and Rebels have a clear impact on live-action canonical characters. Announced earlier in 2020, The Bad Batch “follows the elite and experimental clones of the Bad Batch as they find their way in a rapidly changing galaxy in the immediate aftermath of the Clone War. Members of Bad Batch — a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the Clone Army — each possess a singular exceptional skill which makes them extraordinarily effective soldiers and a formidable crew. In the post-Clone War era, they will take on daring mercenary missions as they struggle to stay afloat and find new purpose.”

6. Star Wars: Visions

Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy announced that there will be ten “fantastic visions” told through the lens of the world’s best Japanese anime creators. Little else is know about these animated short films, but they will definitely look spectacular.

7. Lando

Remember that moment at the end of Rise of Skywalker when Lando sat down next to the ex-enslaved Stormtrooper, Jannah (Naomi Ackie)? It was kind of a forced moment, but I suspect this is why. Helmed by Justin Simien (Dear White People), the series that can easily launch with Lando helping Jannah look into where she came from.

I still maintain that it’s upsetting to know that so many of the Stormtroopers we’ve watched die are not Imperial volunteers but child soldiers…but…maybe an incredible and enlightened creator like Simien can help this make sense.

8. The Acolyte

Leslye Headland is the creator of Russian Doll, one of the most clever uses of the “groundhog day” device ever. This already has Netflix Jessica Jones or Daredevil vibes all over it. The idea of a darker, grittier, mystery-thrillier Star Wars has me amped.

To prepare you with knowledge about the High Republic era, check out Star Wars: The High Republic, a collection of original stories spanning a variety of comics, books, and more starting in January 2021.

9. A Droid Story

A Droid Story will be an animated series starring R2-D2 and C-3PO for Disney+. Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy announced, “As we continue to develop new stories, the intersection of animation and visual effects offers new opportunities for us to explore. This epic journey will introduce us to a new hero guided by our most iconic duu…on a secret mission known only to them. What could possibly go wrong?”

10. Untitled Taika Waititi feature film

While Jojo Rabbit may have garnered Waititi an Oscar, it was with Thor: Ragnarok that he captured my attention. Waititi is clever, funny, cool, and talented so it’s no surprise that Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy promised his film to be a wild ride.

11. Rogue Squadron

This one is so exciting we wrote an entire article about it. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins is determined to create the “greatest fighter pilot movie of all time.” She picked the right airframe — the T-65B X-Wing space superiority fighter has legendary status ever since Luke Skywalker jumped in the cockpit. Survivors of his Red Squadron at the Battle of Yavin would go on to form Rogue Squadron, named for the heroes of Rogue One. 

Rogue Squadron was founded by Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, but this film should take place after The Rise of Skywalker and take us into “a new era” of flight.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Midway’ looks like it’s everything ‘Pearl Harbor’ was supposed to be

Remember the collective crushing disappointment we all felt as we got settled in to watch Pearl Harbor in 2001, expecting a Saving Private Ryan-level war movie on a grander scale and suddenly realizing it was a love story and that the attack on Pearl Harbor was actually just part of the backstory? The bad news is that Pearl Harbor is still on television.

The good news is that the director of Independence Day just made a movie about the World War II Battle of Midway. And he even remade the attack on Pearl Harbor to get started.


The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

All this and Woody Harrelson as Chester Nimitz? I’m interested. This still is from Planet of the Apes, but we all wish Nimitz shaved his head like this before combat. I do, anyway.

For the uninitiated, the Battle of Midway may have well been the turning point in the Pacific War of World War II. While the Doolittle Raid featured in Pearl Harbor showed American resolve and boosted morale, it did little to really hurt the Japanese in the Pacific (the Doolittle Raid appears to be in the Midway movie as well). Two months later in 1942, the U.S. Navy struck a decisive blow, delivering a devastating punch to the face of the Japanese Empire at the height of its power – just six months after the U.S. Navy was supposed to be knocked out of the war at Pearl Harbor.

The Americans had a complete intelligence advantage at Midway, having broken the Japanese radio codes and determining they were on their way to attack an island code-named “AF.” In order to figure out what objective “AF” was, American intelligence sent an uncoded message that the water purification system on Midway was down, they heard Japanese radio operators reporting objective “AF” was low on water. The target was Midway, and the Navy laid a trap for the oncoming Japanese fleet.

The United States ended up with the Japanese objective, the days the Japanese fleet would arrive, and the entire Japanese order of battle. What’s more, the Japanese were unaware of the Americans’ positions or that the Navy had broken their codes, so the Japanese Navy took the further steps of so dividing their forces into four subgroups, that they were unable to support each other. This might have been a great tactic in a surprise, but not so much when the Americans knew exactly where every ship would be and when they would be there. The result was, not surprisingly, a complete rout that could only be described as a major ass-kicking.

Japanese forces took massive losses. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost ten times the number of men, along with four aircraft carriers it could not replace, two heavy cruisers, and almost 250 aircraft. The Americans lost just 307 men, 150 planes, the carrier USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Hammann.

Not bad for the first American victory in the Pacific.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 great military soundtracks to study or just relax to

The military isn’t all action and adventure. There are plenty of dull tasks required of service members that can send even the most motivated of troops to sleep. Whether it’s writing an after action report, studying for your promotion board, or trying to figure out the convoluted requirements to get your leave approved, here are some of the best military soundtracks to listen to and keep you on track. Note that this isn’t a list of the most epic military soundtracks, hence the omission of legendary film soundtracks like Das Boot, Black Hawk Down, and Crimson Tide.

1. Band of Brothers

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
(SONY MASTERWORKS)

If you’re like me, you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve watched Band of Brothers. From watching reruns on TV to popping in the DVD/BluRay for a mini marathon, Michael Kamen’s arrangements have graced the ears of thousands of viewers. The combination of beautiful orchestral melodies combined with the almost haunting choral work makes this soundtrack an excellent choice for some calming background music. That said, you’d be forgiven if you kept the Main Titles, Suite One, and Suite Two on repeat. After all, they are the most used songs from the legendary mini-series. Its spiritual successor, The Pacific, also has a noteworthy soundtrack. However, it’s a bit too intense with its dramatic swells and drum beats to make the list for studying and relaxing music.

2. Saving Private Ryan

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
(Dreamworks)

It makes sense that the forerunner of the previous entry be on this list too. Band of Brothers took a lot of production cues from Saving Private Ryan including its score. Produced by the legendary John Williams, the same man that brought us the music for iconic films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, E.T., and Jaws, the soundtrack from Saving Private Ryan does not disappoint. The opening song, “Hymn to the Fallen”, is iconic in its own right and is often used for Veterans Day and Memorial Day events and videos. Additionally, the soundtrack itself is over an hour long, so you can get plenty of work done while it plays. If you enjoy this soundtrack, I also recommend giving the original Medal of Honor video game soundtrack a listen. The game was conceived by Spielberg after he completed Saving Private Ryan and Michael Giacchino, the game’s composer, was heavily inspired by Williams and went on to compose for eight more WWII-based video games.

3. Gladiator

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
(Decca)

Come on, this one counts as a military movie. After all, Maximus Decimus Meridius was a Roman general commanding an army in battle at the film’s opening. At any rate, composers Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard built a truly inspirational soundtrack for the film. You don’t even need to have seen Gladiator to appreciate its music as a studying or working accompaniment. Additionally, the album won the 2001 Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture.

4. The Thin Red Line

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
(La La Land)

Yes, it’s another Zimmer entry. Anyway, the 1998 film is a bit of a departure from other war films of its time like Saving Private Ryan or Platoon. At any rate, its soundtrack was nominated for Original Dramatic Score at the 71st Academy Awards. Although it didn’t win, its impact on movie music is long-felt. The film’s main theme, “Journey to the Line”, has been used in the trailers for Man of Steel, 12 Years a Slave, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. It was also used in the trailer for Pearl Harbor, the soundtrack of which was also composed by Zimmer and features heavy influence from The Thin Red Line. Pearl Harbor didn’t make this list due to its more melancholic tones.

5. Dunkirk (Honorable Mention)

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
(Watertower Music)

Hear me out. This one is absolutely not a good choice to study or relax to. Its time ticking theme and anxiety-inducing builds are not the kind of sounds you want to hear if you need to slow your heart beat. However, if you’re on a time crunch, this might be just what you need to get yourself in the zone. Picture this: It’s 0400 and you’ve been up since 0300…the previous day. You’re running on pure caffeine and adrenaline and both are running dangerously low. Your task, whether its a slide deck, a new SOP, or a stack of evals, is due first thing in the morning. Some people thrive under the pressure, and if that’s you, why not add some epic background music to your sprint to the finish line? The satisfaction garnered from completing your last minute task just before its deadline will be sweetened by having the film’s “End Titles” play you through to your victory.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘The Black Widow’ might reboot the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel officially announced its massive upcoming slate that will kick off phase 4 of the MCU starting with “The Black Widow” solo movie coming to theaters May 1, 2020. Black Widow finally getting her own movie should come as no surprise, as the superspy is one of the OG Avengers and is played by Scarlett Johansson, one of the biggest actresses in the world.

However, there is one big potential problem: Black Widow is, for lack of a better word, dead, as she sacrificed herself to help the other Avengers get a hold of the Soul Stone. Obviously, this means that “The Black Widow” will be an origin story set in the past but it also begs the question: could “Black Widow” being the first movie in phase 4 mean that the MCU is finally ready to embrace the multiverse?


Confused? Well, it’s possible that “The Black Widow” could just be a standalone origin film but given the interconnectivity of the MCU, that feels unlikely. “Captain Marvel,” the last movie before “Endgame,” took place in the 90s but it still managed to connect itself to the larger narrative (“Captain America” did the same thing). This makes it feel highly unlikely that “Black Widow” will be a stand-alone story that marks the end of Johansson’s time with Marvel, especially considering the fact that it has been chosen as the movie to start the post-Iron Man and Captain America era of the MCU.

This is where the multiverse comes into play because it could potentially allow the titular secret agent to find her way back into the story while also finally opening up the MCU to other universes. The MCU has been hinting at the multiverse theory for a long time, most recently via Mysterio in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” but so far, it has only dipped its toes into the complex tapestry of parallel realities.

The multiverse theory makes even more sense when you look down the rest of the phase 4 schedule, as a lot of the upcoming shows and movies seem to suggest the possibility of alternative universes, as they are packed with dead members of the MCU. Loki, who died in “Infinity War,” will be getting his own show in 2021, while Vision, who was murdered by Thanos, is set to have a major role in “WandaVision,” another show set to air on Disney+.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
(Disney/Marvel)

Is Marvel just getting really into prequels? Maybe (although Vision and Wanda don’t meet until Ultron so that doesn’t really make sense) but how would that explain “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” At this point, Marvel is basically winking at comic book fans with its seeming embrace of the multiverse.

So when “Black Widow” hits theaters next year, don’t be surprised if its a badass espionage flick that also sets the foundation of the Avengers diving deep into the wonderfully weird world of the multiverse. This would open it up to infinite possibilities, including rebooting storylines and bringing back characters who are currently dead.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 things you didn’t know about ‘Band of Brothers’

In 2001, DreamWorks and HBO Films released one of the most critically acclaimed miniseries. Band of Brothers follows a group of well-trained Army Paratroopers as they go from grueling training to being thrust into the hell that is World War II. The story chronicles the unique bond of the brave men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

Spielberg proved his ability to faithfully capture the intensities and personalities of World War II in his 1998 blockbuster, Saving Private Ryan. This time around, Spielberg took the executive producer’s chair.

Although many people are familiar with this amazing piece of film, there are a few facts about the classic miniseries that even the most die-hard fans don’t know.


Also Read: 6 things you didn’t know about ‘Top Gun’ (probably)

www.youtube.com

The actors went through a tough, 10-week boot camp

To get the actors to appear like real paratroopers, the producers turned to decorated Marine veteran Capt. Dale Dye to get the on-screen talent up-to-speed on World War II-era infantry tactics. Capt. Dye was on a mission to not only educate the talented cast on how to maneuver and communicate, but to expose the actors to the real exhaustion that paratroopers endured in combat.

This way, the actors would get an emotional understanding. When it was time to film a tough scene, they had their own personal references to draw from, making their reactions organic and realistic.

The uniforms

Since the miniseries covers multiple characters from different countries, the costume designers had to come up with 2,000 authentic German and American combat uniforms — including approximately 500 pairs of era-appropriate jump boots.

In order to get the details just right, the costume designers spent countless hours researching materials, manufacturing techniques, and design choices.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Tom Hanks watches as dozens of extras fall in line and head to the set

(HBO Films)

Set locations

The massive production took a total of three years and cost over 0 million. The scenes were shot primarily on a 1,100 acre back lot located in Hatfield, England. 12 acres of land were continuously modified in order to work for 11 different on-screen locales.

“It’s about five things bigger than what we had on Saving Private Ryan,” executive producer Tom Hanks reported.

Massive-scale pyrotechnics

Nearly every fan of film has seen 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. Aside from the powerful performances from talented actors, the audience enjoyed incredibly lifelike explosions and gunshots. By the time the crew had finished filming the third episode of Band of Brothers, they’d already surpassed the number of explosions and squibs used in entirety of Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan had around half the budget of Band of Brothers.

www.youtube.com

The Battle of the Bulge

While setting to film TheBattle of the Bulge,the production department constructed a massive forest inside an airport hangar. To make the scene feelrealistic, they neededvegetation. So,the production turned to the special effect department whobuilt nearly250 hollowed-out trees,made from fiberglass, hemp, and latex.

When a tree exploded on set, most of the debris fell on top of the actors,helping them deliver an authenticon-screen performance.

Articles

How Tolkien’s war experience shaped ‘The Lord of the Rings’

 

“An author cannot, of course, remain wholly unaffected by his experience.”


These are the words of arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century and WWI veteran, John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien.

In June 1916, the newly commissioned lieutenant kissed his newly married wife goodbye as he boarded the transport to Calais, France. Come July 1st, one of the bloodiest battles in human history took place near the Somme River. That day, his closest friend was killed and Tolkien forever changed.

Shouldering the burden of leadership and the ever looming threat of death, by disease or the enemy, Tolkien carried on. Ultimately, it was Trench Fever that sent him home ten days before the dust settled.

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’
Tolkien’s Battalion, The 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers. (Photo via Wikicommons)

Deemed no longer medically fit for service, Tolkien returned to his passion: writing. The rest is history.

When the second edition of The Lord of the Rings was released, the foreword stated: “The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion.” Tolkien continued with, “But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.”

He hated direct comparisons of his works to real world events. No real world leader is Sauron. No real world army are the orcs. And the One Ring is not a reference to the nuclear bomb.

Much of the psychology and emotions of his works, however, did pull from his time on the battlefield, most notably with the Dead Marshes. In the second volume (and film) The Two Towers, the ghoulish Gollum lead the protagonist, Frodo Baggins, through a swamp full of bloated bodies under the mud and water.

Tolkien’s biography, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, explained that what Frodo experienced in the Marsh was specifically based on the Battle of the Somme where Tolkien saw countless bodies across the muddy battlefield.

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Themes were also pulled from his leadership and the bravery of his men. Tolkien studied at Oxford and lead men from mining, milling, and weaving towns of Lancashire. In another biography, Tolkien and the Great War, Tolkien said he “felt an affinity for these working class men, but military protocol forbade him from developing friendships with ‘other ranks’.” This man-apart thematically affected many of the characters in his novels.

One of the largest changes from the novel to any film adaptation is the “Scouring of the Shire” and the mindset of Frodo after the war. In the final chapters of the last book, Saruman attacked the Shire and all of the townspeople had to defend their home.

Afterward, Frodo was left alone.

War changed him. Frodo couldn’t just return to being a happy, singing Hobbit like everyone else after the war. He’d been stabbed, poisoned, and lost a finger. Frodo, like Tolkien himself, had become “shell-shocked” after combat.

The forward of the 1991 release of The Lord of the Rings added another Tolkien quote: “The country in which I lived in childhood was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten. Recently I saw in a paper a picture of the last decrepitude of the once thriving corn-mill beside its pool that long ago seemed to me so important.”

Check out this video for more:

(YouTube | The Great War)

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