It’s one of the coolest moments in medieval fantasy films. A blacksmith sweats over the forge, slowly pouring bright-orange, molten iron into an open-topped stone mold of a mighty sword while the audience watches a cool shot of the weapon taking shape.
Go ahead and toss in a shot of the warrior looking on with joy, let the audience watch as they quench the hot blade in snow, a person, or whatever, and presto, our hero has a neat toy for the next scene.
It’s too bad that this isn’t how any of it’s done in real life — and if it were, it’d be a sign of terrible craftsmanship.
The switch to iron and steel meant that they could make weapons longer without sacrificing durability. Which is important when you’re trying to stab someone without getting stabbed.
(Picture by J.J. Luder)
First, it should be stated that there’s a huge difference between casting a weapon and forging one. Back in the Bronze Age, before blacksmiths knew any better, they would take molten bronze and pour it into a stone cast to create a battle-ready weapon. This is casting.
Bronze was made from mixing copper and tin. For blacksmiths in 1200 BCE, this wasn’t a problem as both were abundant enough. Mankind had known about iron for hundreds of years at this point, but using it required a tremendous effort to create a product that was on par with bronze alternatives. When it was discovered that just a bit of carbon could turn the Earth’s most abundant metal into steel, they embraced the challenge.
Steel makes for stronger, more durable weapons, so blacksmiths began using this metal instead, but the process required was much different. To create something, smiths needed to forge it, starting from a blank (or piece of metal) that was the relative size of the weapon they intended to make, heating it, and painstakingly hammering it into shape.
No matter how cool of an opening scene this is, it’s still kinda of wrong.
It’s not impossible to cast iron weapons — but the process will yield a cheap, crude weapon. This works for the Uruk-hai Orcs of The Lord of the Rings, but it’s just not practical for anyone else. This is also how most cheapo swords that medieval fans have on their walls are made. For decorative weaponry, that’s fine, but the blade would probably snap in half given just a bit of pressure.
When you pour the metal into the cast, it’s going to take shape of the mold. Which means that it’s only going to be half made when it’s done with an open-top cast. The other half of the sword will be flat when the metal hardens. If they were to rework the metal into a complete shape after that, it’d defeat the purpose of the mold all together.
If you want a durable weapon made out of anything but bronze and looks beautiful, you’re going to need to forge it. This process can take days — even just to get a standard-looking sword. You’re looking at weeks of master craftsmanship to get the caliber of weapons used by main characters.
Most films opt to go with the more cinematic approach. Bright-red liquid (fun side note: Molten iron heated to the point where it can be cast is actually more of a pale yellow. They’re using aluminum) looks cool when it takes form, but the actual process of making real weapons is far more impressive — even if it takes a lot longer than a montage.
In the mid ’80s, TheA-Team was a hit action-comedy television show about a crack commando unit sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escape from a maximum security stockade and find their way into the Los Angeles underground. Throughout the series, they survive as soldiers of fortune wanted by the government.
Over the course of five seasons, the A-Team turns to mercenary work and travels the world, stopping villains-of-the-week and trying to clear their names. Of course, throughout the 98-episode run of the series, plenty of unrealistic events get overlooked (i.e. “B.A.” gets shot with a .50 cal in the leg and walks it off later that episode).
That being said, let’s take a look at the major events that kicked off the entire awesome series with a more critical eye — there’re a few problems at play here.
The A-Team consists of Col. “Hannibal” Smith, Lt. “Faceman” Peck, Sgt. 1st Class “B.A.” Baracus, and Captain “Howling Mad” Murdock. The fictional Green Berets were told to rob the Bank of Hanoi to defund the NVA under military orders. They were successful in seizing the gold bullions, but the only person who knew they were on official duty was killed before they returned. They were stung and became the fall-guys for the theft. They’re sent to prison, escape, and become mercenaries before the pilot episode begins.
The often-mentioned, but detail foggy, event revolved around a covert mission to rob the bank under the command of one man, Col. Morrison. He was killed and everything pertaining to the mission was burnt to the ground. In reality, nearly every mission ever, no matter how covert, is known by more than five people and a mission this sensitive would have been scouted, mapped, and supported by a number of specialists. Somebody other than just Colonel Morrison would be available in court to testify that they were acting under orders.
Yet, the A-Team is still guilty. Every troop has the right and the duty to disobey an unlawful order. Sure, the Bank of Hanoi may have been bankrolling NVA forces, but they were also a civilian bank. Attacking a bank in a poor, war-torn country and stealing the money that may also belong to civilians is against many articles of the Geneva Convention.
Regardless of the context, pillaging is a war crime under both Fourth Geneva Convention; Articles 33-34 and Protocol II; Article 4 of the Geneva Convention. An attack on a civilian complex, despite allegiance to an enemy, goes against Protocol I; Articles 43-44 because the armed robbery was against non-combatants. And obviously, escape from prison is classified as a crime.
Surprisingly enough, many things they do as mercenaries (when they’re hired on for missions by a third party for both combat and bounty-hunting missions) and as vigilantes (when they act where law enforcement in its absence) are clear in the eyes of the law. Rocky start aside, The A-Team is an amazing show, who’s most popular prior-service character is actually prior service.
Gina Elise and Pin-Ups for Vets are on a mission. Her nonprofit and the pin-ups who work therein are on a a 50-state hospital tour, visiting veterans at their bedside at military and VA facilities. In their 12th year, Elise and her cadre of volunteers will have visited over 12,000 veterans.
Choosing who gets to be in the yearly calendar is a much more difficult decision.
“We received so many incredible submissions from female Veterans all over the U.S.,” Elise says. “It is always so hard to select our calendar models, but there are only 12 months in a calendar, so we have to narrow it down. We are featuring an outstanding group of female Veterans in our 2018 edition, from a gunner’s mate to a surgery technician to a range coach. These ladies come from each of the five branches.”
Daphne Bye was selected for this year’s calendar. Bye was a TMO Marine, making sure equipment and other materiel got to where it was going. But she later became a range coach, teaching her fellow Marines how to properly use their weapons.
“The fact that I was the only female [on the range as a coach] was even better for me not only because we are so few in the Corps but because most would be shocked to see me there as a coach,” Bye says. “I was proud!”
Another Pin-Up featured in the calendar is Allison Paganetti. Paganetti was a Signal Corps in the Army and came from a veteran family. Both her grandfathers also served in the military.
“The truly brave and selfless individuals who provided my freedom should always be respected and never forgotten,” she says. “I am proud to do my part to shine light on any cause that supports my fellow veterans.”
Megan Marine was a Motor Vehicle Operator in the Marine Corps but has been watching the work of Gina Elise and Pin-Ups for Vets for over ten years. She always wanted to be a part of the the organization and in the calendar. This year is her year.
“Undoubtedly, there are a lot of people living in this world who are in need of care, time, and attention,” says Tess Rutherford, another 2018 calendar alum. “But for me, I feel it is my duty [and] my responsibility to extend a helping hand to my fellow veteran.”
“It gives us vets the opportunity to do what we did while serving,” Rutherford says. “We are able to to put a smile on the face of a veteran who has just undergone horrific surgery or lighten up the countenance of one who is on their dying bed. The only thing that changes is we are allowed to be elegant, regal, sophisticated, and beautiful during the process. It brings a great feeling of euphoria to change lives in such a way!”
Brendena Kyles was a gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy. She remembers being on call when the ship called her up in the middle of the night.
“I thought it was a drill till I saw three small boats mounted with weapons following us in our wake…it was definitely not a drill,” she says. “I sighted in with my 240 just waiting for the call, after a good 30 mins of nervously waiting for the call to shoot. They finally gave up and stopped following us, could not go back to sleep after that adrenaline rush.”
Michelle Rivera wanted to be part of the calendar because it’s important for her to try to find a way to give back to the other people in the veteran community. She’s a 3rd-generation Army veteran who loves the fact that Pin-Ups for Vets gives female veterans a chance to do something meaningful for hospitalized veterans.
Gina Elise and her volunteer pin-ups are incredible human beings who makes it their goal to ensure the pin-ups make it to all 50 states.
A disabled veteran once told Elise, “When you are here, my pain is gone!” Since then, Pin-Ups for Vets has donated more than $56,000 to help VA Hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.
In a press release on March 7, 2019, the company finally announced the opening dates for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge — and it’s ahead of schedule. The 14-acre expansion will open on May 31, 2019, at Disneyland in California and on Aug. 29, 2019, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.
“On opening day for phase one, guests will be transported to the remote planet of Batuu, full of unique sights, sounds, smells, and tastes,” the release describes. “Guests can become part of the story as they sample galactic food and beverages, explore an intriguing collection of merchant shops, and take the controls of the most famous ship in the galaxy aboard Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run.”
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to Open May 31 at Disneyland Resort, Aug. 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
According to the statement, however, the park will open in phases “to allow guests to sooner enjoy the one-of-a-kind experiences that make Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so spectacular.”
Phase two won’t open until later in 2019. It will feature the park’s largest attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, where guests will board a full-size starship and join the battle against the First Order, including a face-off with Kylo Ren.
To visit the Disneyland park between May 31 and June 23, 2019, Disney says that guests will not only need valid theme park admission but also a “no-cost reservation.” Details on how to make that reservation have not yet been released but will be posted on Disneyland.com. The park will then open to the general public on June 24, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
It’s definitely not canon, but this video of Gunnery Sgt. Donald Duck ripping into new recruits from the Disney Universe is hilarious, featuring Goofy trying to pull off a satisfactory war face as Pluto attempts to keep a straight face and the Duck rips into them both. Full Metal Jacket has never been so whimsical.
In the clip, made with a little audio engineering and one of the best scenes from Full Metal Jacket, Goofy, Pluto, and Mickey join the Marine Corps and run right into one of the angriest characters from classic Disney, Donald Duck, now a gunnery sergeant and drill instructor in the “beloved corps.”
He wasn’t particularly great at it, so maybe that’s why, two decades later, he’s just a recruit in Marine Corps basic.
Or, you know, alternate theory: The Full Metal Jacket mashup is just a fun joke on the internet and not actually part of the characters’ storylines. Since it’s clearly not sanctioned by Disney and features Donald Duck letting out a string of profanities and a few colorful suggestions, we’re gonna go out on a limb and say this isn’t canon.
The contest awards one superfan the chance to sleep over at the stadium and wake up in a suite on the day of the NFL’s biggest game of the year — the Super Bowl.
To secretly get Courey to show up for the big reveal, he was under the impression he was attending a photo shoot for the contest’s finalists.
Standing in front of a large Courtyard Hotel backdrop, Courey posed for photographers while taking instructions from an unexpected and concealed director, future NFL Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning.
After calling a play at a fake line of scrimmage, Manning finally revealed himself from his curtained location to surprise the longtime fan.
Manning handed over the two Super Bowl tickets to Courey and wife, Chelsea, who was also at the shoot, and informed him of his ‘sleepover’ privileges.
“It’s a dream come true,” Marshall happily stated.
Courey served in the Navy from 2008 to 2012 as a divisional officer and oversaw approximately 45 sailors who served as “operations specialists.” Their roles consisted of aiding and helping execute the ship’s combat missions.
‘The Marine’ is a classic American film and accurate portrayal of a marine transitioning to civilian life,” said no actual Marine, ever.
The film, produced in 2006 by WWE Films, stars WWE superstar John Cena as John Triton, a highly regarded Marine who is unwillingly discharged from the Corps after he disobeys an order while on a hostage rescue mission in Iraq. All of this takes place in the first 5 minutes of the film. The rest of the movie is John, now a civilian, tracking down his wife after she is . . . you know what, it doesn’t really matter.
No one expects accuracy or Academy award-winning performances in a film made for wrestling fans, but if this entire film had been a military movie, it could have possibly set the record for the most technical mistakes in a film.
So here they are, 21 major mistakes (with timestamps) in the first 5 minutes of ‘The Marine’:
1. (1:14) John’s ribbon stack on his Dress Blues is completely out of order.
2. (1:15) Not only is the Combat Action Ribbon out of order, it is worn backwards.
3. (1:18) John’s salute is a good example of how not to salute. His saluting arm is not parallel to the ground, his hand angled inward far too much, and it’s far above the brim of his cover.
4. (1:19) John’s dress blues uniform is unkempt. His white glove is noticeably wrinkled (while saluting), his coat sleeves are too long, and his pants are not tailored causing them to bunch up at his feet because they’re much too long.
5. (1:20) JOHN IS FREAKING STANDING ON THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!
6. (1:50) John is single handedly performing reconnaissance on an Al Qaeda compound with no back up.
7. (1:57) On combat mission, John is not wearing any head or eye protection.
8. (2:22) Who could miss the unrealistic and gigantic muzzle flash from John’s M16?
9. (2:27) The 40 MM grenade John shoots from his M203 creates a huge unrealistic fireball that engulfs three insurgents.
10. (2:31) Bullet holes in the wall from the 7.62 mm caliber rounds fired by the insurgents are enormous.
11. (2:35) John is not wearing any type of flak jacket.
12. (3:04) After eliminating the insurgents in the room John turns to the bloodied hostages on the floor. Instead of checking to see if they need any immediate medical care he asks in a nonchalant manner “Are you guys ready to go home?”
13. (3:32) There is no special operations command in Stuttgart, Germany.
14. (3:41) No Marine Colonel dressed in his Alphas would walk in to a gym to fetch a Non Commissioned Officer. He would send one of his many aides to get him.
15. (3:46) The Colonel’s ribbon stack is completely out of order.
16. (3:49) John has his back turned to the Colonel the entire time when he is speaking with him. As an enlisted Marine he should face the Colonel.
17. (4:06) The Colonel’s rifle badge is noticeably slanted out of place on his service alphas uniform.
18. (4:09) John is not wearing an authorized Marine Corps cover in uniform.
19. (4:17) The Colonel gives John the terrible news about the decision to discharge him out of the Marines. This would normally be done privately in an official capacity, not casually outside the base gym and in public.
20. (4:22) The Colonel gives John his discharge paperwork in a small letter envelope. There is so much paperwork when a service member discharges they often need folders or very large envelopes to carry them.
21. (4:49) When the Colonel is finished giving John the bad news he renders John a salute. Officers are not supposed to salute an enlisted rank first. To make matters worse, when John renders a salute back the Colonel walks away before John finishes his salute (see image below). This entire saluting sequence is entirely screwed up.
See the trailer of the movie below, and watch the whole think if you’d like to catch another two or so hours of errors.
It’s been more than 150 years since Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Commander Ulysses S. Grant at Wilmer McLean’s Appomattox home, but the legacy of the Civil War still lingers.
From the recent controversies over Confederate memorials to the tens of thousands of hobbyists who dress in grey and blue every summer to reenact key battles, Americans continue to wrestle with the causes and ramifications of the War Between the States.
These nine films, which cover the conflict from the hallways of Congress to the scorched earth of Bleeding Kansas, are packed with insights and (usually) authentic historical details. Just as importantly, they’re guaranteed to entertain.
Widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, this four-hour epic won 10 Academy Awards, broke box office records, and introduced the myth of the Lost Cause to generations of moviegoers. For the role of Scarlett O’Hara, producer David O. Selznick considered nearly every leading lady in Hollywood–from Katharine Hepburn to Tallulah Bankhead to Lana Turner–before settling on Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown English actress. Her iconic performance immortalized the character of the spoiled, strong-willed Southern belle.
To cast Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Selznick had to delay production and give away half his profits. In return, Gable got the most famous exit line in movie history: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hewing closely to Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel, the screenplay features insightful period details (Confederate blockade runners, Carpetbaggers bribing freed slaves for their votes, etc.) and an epic recreation of the burning of Atlanta. While Gone with the Wind has been rightly criticized for misleading viewers about the horrors of slavery, its emotional impact and sweeping scale make it a must-see for anyone interested in the legacy of the Civil War.
Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of a runaway slave turned soldier in this captivating drama about the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, the first all-black regiment in the history of the US Army. Matthew Broderick stars as Robert Gould Shaw, the white officer who commanded the 54th.
The Confederate Army had recently announced that any captured black Union soldier would be enslaved or killed alongside his white officers, and Shaw had doubts about the unit’s chances for success. But he was impressed by the soldiers’ grit and determination in the face of relentless discrimination and eventually joined their protest to be paid the same as white soldiers.
Tasked with the impossible mission to take Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, Shaw and the men of the 54th fought with incredible courage. Their sacrifice is memorialized in a bronze statue in Boston Common, which inspired screenwriter Kevin Jarre to pay tribute to their story.
Daniel Day-Lewis spent a full year researching Abraham Lincoln’s life in preparation for his Oscar-winning turn as the 16th president of the United States. The result is a tender, lived-in portrayal of the man behind the myth–from his slumped shoulders and high-pitched Illinois twang to his unwavering sense of conviction.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner draws on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivalsto dramatize the political machinations involved in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln knew that the permanent abolition of slavery was necessary to the nation’s survival but had to race against the clock to get the bill passed before the South could negotiate peace.
By revealing the drama and intrigue behind one of Congress’s most significant pieces of legislation, director Steven Spielberg offers a civics lesson as thrilling as it is necessary.
Originally planned as a TV miniseries, this four-hour epic based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Killer Angelsstars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. Director James Maxwell convinced the National Park Service to allow him to film on the actual Gettysburg battlefield, and thousands of Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to recreate crucial moments in the three-day campaign, including the assault on Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.
The film, like the novel, focuses on the decisions and actions of key players including General Robert E. Lee (Sheen), Lieutenant General James Longstreet (Berenger), and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Daniels). Daniels, in particular, delivers a rousing performance as the commander of 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose stout defense of Little Round Top against repeated Confederate assaults helped to turn the tide of the battle and the war. With its massive scale, brilliant cinematography, and rigorous attention to historical detail, Gettysburg does justice to the deadliest battle in US history.
When it was first broadcast on five consecutive nights in September 1990, this documentary miniseries drew an average of 14 million viewers per night–the largest audience in the history of PBS. Over the course of nine episodes, director Ken Burns and his team of researchers, video editors, historians, and actors unspooled the full story of the Civil War, from John Brown’s uprising at Harper’s Ferry to Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of John Wilkes Booth.
Inspired by Matthew Brady’s photographs of the conflict, Burns used a panning and zooming technique (thereafter known as the “Ken Burns effect”) to bring to life roughly 16,000 still images. Excerpts from the letters and diaries of Robert E. Lee, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and less-known historical figures such as Mary Chestnut and George Templeton Strong provide an intimate perspective on large-scale events like the Battle of Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.
The Civil War reignited popular interest in America’s bloodiest conflict and helped to pave the way for bingeable TV documentaries such as The Jinxand OJ: Made in America.
Based on Charles Frazier’s blockbuster novel of the same name, this Anthony Minghella-directed epic is the story of W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a Confederate deserter trying to make his way home to North Carolina in the final months of the Civil War. Gravely wounded in the Battle of the Crater and recovering in a field hospital, Inman decides to leave the war when he reads a letter from his beloved, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), imploring him to do just that.
While Inman and the other Cold Mountain men have been off fighting, Ada has been struggling to work her deceased father’s farm. Eventually she’s helped in her efforts by Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger in an Oscar-winning performance), an unlettered woman well-versed in the hardscrabble life of a subsistence farmer.
The film brilliantly interweaves Inman’s encounters with all manner of desperate characters–from ribald preachers to villainous Confederate Home Guards –and scenes of Ada and Ruby learning to fend for themselves. Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, and Jack White round out the all-star cast of this story of war-torn country and lovers.
Starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel, and Jeffrey Wright, this underrated film is based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel Woe to Live On. Maguire stars as young Missouri farmer Jake Roedel, who joins the Bushwhackers, a pro-Confederate guerrilla force, when his German immigrant father is killed by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas.
Alongside his best friend Jack Bull Chiles (Ulrich), Roedel roams the border between Kansas and Missouri, skirmishing with Union regulars and irregulars. But when the Bushwhackers, led by militiaman William Quantrill (John Ales), raid Lawrence, Kansas and massacre 150 unarmed men and boys, Roedel must ask himself where his loyalties truly lie.
Jeffrey Wright delivers a stellar performance as a freed slave who fights for the South, and director Ang Lee brings deep sensitivity and impressive historical accuracy to this searing portrayal of a largely forgotten chapter of the Civil War.
This John Ford-directed Civil War Western is loosely based on the real story of Grierson’s Raid, a daring Union cavalry incursion some six hundred miles into hostile territory that set the stage for the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
John Wayne stars as Colonel John Marlowe, a railroad construction engineer who leads his men on a mission to destroy a railroad and supply depot in Newton’s Station, Mississippi. When a Southern belle overhears the brigade’s plans, Marlowe is forced to take her and her slave, Lukey, captive. Legendary tennis ace Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title, was cast as Lukey but objected to the character’s scripted stereotypical “Negro” dialect. Ford had the dialogue changed at her request.
With Ford’s dynamic visual style and a well-matched rivalry between Wayne’s colonel and William Holden as a regimental surgeon haunted by the horrors of warfare, The Horse Soldiers captures the drama and audacity of one of the war’s most brilliant campaigns.
Inspired by real-life rumors of lost Confederate gold, this epic spaghetti Western follows three gunslingers across a southwestern landscape ravaged by the Civil War. Clint Eastwood is Blondie (The Good), a lone-wolf bounty hunter with a sense of justice; Lee van Cleef is Angel Eyes (The Bad), a cold-blooded mercenary who never lets a contract killing go unfulfilled; and Eli Wallach is Tuco (The Ugly), a voluble Mexican bandit wanted for a long list of crimes.
As these drifters cross and double-cross each other in pursuit of 0,000 in buried treasure, Union and Confederate forces clash for control of the New Mexico Territory. In director Sergio Leone’s vision of the Civil War, neither side fights with honor. Greed, violence, and stupidity rule the day. With brilliant cinematography and an iconic score by Ennio Morricone, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the 20th century’s most unique and influential films.
Canadian filmmaker Paul Gross was never a soldier, but he has great respect for them. He comes from a military family; his grandfather and his father both served. Gross ended up in the arts, but he believes that soldiers represent their countries with an enormous amount of dignity and honor and they should be acknowledged for that.
“A soldier signed a piece of paper at one point, saying ‘I am willing to die for my country,'” Gross says. “That’s an extraordinary fucking thing. Did you ever sign such a piece of paper? I know I sure as shit didn’t.”
Gross wrote, directed, and stars in Hyena Road, a film about a Canadian Forces effort to build a road into the heart of enemy-held territory in Afghanistan. Gross plays Pete Mitchell, a sage intelligence officer responsible for convincing the local warlords to stop planting improvised explosive devices along the construction path .
“My character is loosely based on this real officer who was my guide,” Gross says. “Through this intelligence guy I started to learn stuff about Afghanistan. Not just the combat, I started to learn about Afghans.”
Mitchell needs to understand Afghan culture as he tries to bring a mysterious former Mujahid known as “the Ghost” to his side of the fight. The Ghost, played by Niamatullah Arghandabi, is a local Afghan elder who has a hidden identity as a legendary warlord who disappeared after the Russians withdrew.
Gross made two trips to Afghanistan to visit the Canadian Forces fighting there. The second time, he decided to film everything he could. He didn’t have a story at the time. A lot of that footage wound up in the final cut of Hyena Road. He talked to a lot of soldiers and took a lot of notes. When he returned to Ontario, he wrote a screenplay.
“Everything in the movie is pretty much based on stuff that I either heard or witnessed or was sort of common knowledge,” Gross says. “In other words, I didn’t make up anything.”
The film also features a very non-traditional actor in Arghandabi. He now serves an advisor to the Afghan government, and in 1979 he was a mujahid during the Soviet invasion.
“Since he was a kid, he was fighting Soviets,” the director says. “When he was 16, he was living in a cave coming out with Stinger missiles to knock down helicopters. I dragged him out and made him an actor.”
The director met the Arghandabi at Kandahar Airfield while on a visit there in 2011.
“I sat down with this guy and talked with him through an interpreter for about two and a half hours,” Gross recalls “I thought to myself, ‘I could spend the rest of my life with this guy and I would not understand one thing about him.’ That’s how different our cultures are.”
‘The Ghost’ told Gross of the time he met Osama bin Laden. To him Bin Laden wasn’t a fighter; he was a “clown.”
“It’s the weirdest thing,”Gross remembers of Arghandabi. “Talking to these people who knew all these bad guys. Bin Laden was one of the baddest guys we ever thought of, and [Arghandabi] thought he was a clown.”
Gross wants people to walk away from the film entertained, but also better informed because in his opinion, everyone should understand what it is they’re asking their military forces to do.
“That doesn’t mean you have to be against war,” Gross says. “It’s just that most of us wander around with blinders on. We should know what our neighbors, our cousins, our friends are doing there because we’re the one sending them there.”
Hyena Road is in theaters and on iTunes on March 11th.
One of my NCOs gave me a copy of Joseph Heller’s satirical novel Catch-22 as a promotion gift when I became a captain.
It was an ironic gesture, given that he was probably the person I commiserated with the most about ridiculous military rules. Now, George Clooney has directed a six-episode adaptation of the book so you can relive the blood-boiling insanity of active duty all over again.
The series centers on Christopher Abbott’s Captain John Yossarian, a World War II bombardier going crazy trying to stay alive while his commanding officer, Colonel Cathcart (Kyle Chandler), tries to impress his superiors by continually increasing the number of missions his men must fly. Yossarian has already flown 50 and he wants out.
There’s a rule which allows pilots who are crazy to be grounded, but because being driven crazy by fear is fundamentally rational, he’s certified fit to fly. This is the titular catch-22 —and the reason everyone now knows the phrase.
In Heller’s words, “[He] would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”
The military’s response to logic.
Based on the jokes in the trailer, it looks like the series will attempt to capture Heller’s satirical commentary on the absurdity of war (especially when bureaucracies are involved) — and Heller wrote Catch-22 before the United States even became completely entrenched in asymmetrical war-fighting!
Any veteran, especially one who has served in combat or during wartime, can attest to the fact that military decision-making is often based on antiquated laws, procedures, and mindsets. While the United States has continued to maintain global military superiority thus far, we’re certainly not achieving our prime objectives so much as holding a defensive line — and we’re definitely not taking care of our service members the way we should (especially for the amount of money allotted in the defense budget).
Been there, buddy.
I have a feeling the series will capture what it feels like to serve in a system that expects its troops to “shut up and color,” rather than fostering innovation, mental health, and, oh I don’t know, watering the grass with water instead of blood blood blood?
The TV adaptation debuts on Hulu on May 17, 2019, and also stars Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, Giancarlo Giannini, and Daniel David Stewart.
The Armed Forces Network provides American troops, their families, and government contractors with a nice slice of the American media and entertainment from back home. But because the way the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS, and yes, it is pronounced like “a farts”) is run, the programming needs to remain neutral, balanced, and ad-free.
AFRTS is a nonprofit enterprise owned by the U.S. government. It does not and cannot air commercials during its programs. This is to avoid looking like any company has the endorsement of or sponsorship from the Department of Defense. Television shows are created with three commercial gaps in mind and, on AFN, these get replaced with public service announcements and command information spots that are just comically bad.
AFN does run PSAs from the Ad Council that are actually high-quality and are made with great care. The Ad Council is a nonprofit organization that works heavily with agencies of the U.S. Government. Because they’re meant to raise awareness on non-partisan issues, they’re allowed to play on AFN.
They’re intended for general audiences and need to have the quality to compete against a paid advertisement. This is why troops still see ads for McGruff the Crime Dog while they’re trying to catch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
Which brings us to the most ill-received commercials: the command information spots. To put it bluntly, the top priority is to get the message across. This can range from just a Drill Instructor telling you to wear a seat belt to ads like Squeakers, The OPSEC Mouse.
It’s funny the first time, but watching the same ad every time you go to the chow hall will rot your brain. This isn’t the fault of the creators: The budget just isn’t there, the equipment is dated (if there at all), and deadlines are tight. A typical AFN commercial request comes down from command with little more than a call to action and a quick turnaround demand. Some of the nicer AFN commercials are made at Fort Meade, while the less-polished ones are made overseas. Both are created by civilian talent and troops with film-making aspirations.
When it comes time to create a new ad, brainstorm meetings are held to come up with something that’s memorable — that’s the key to all of this. It can be goofy. It can be weird. It can even be about a man in a Batman mask running around Bagram Airfield, shaking people down for breaking rules — as long as you remember the message.
There are few stories as truly amazing and inspiring as that of World War II hero and Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss.
The soldier saved 75 of his fellow troops during the hellish battle for Okinawa — under cover of darkness, avoiding roving Japanese patrols at every turn and lowering his brothers to safety down a cliff by hand … one at a time.
And he did it all without ever firing a shot.
The story of Pvt. Doss — a 7th Day Adventist and conscientious objector during World War II who despite his religious convictions enlisted to serve in the war as a medic — is portrayed in vivid and emotional detail in the upcoming film “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Directed by Mel Gibson and starring Andrew Garfield as Doss, Vince Vaughn as Sgt. Howell, Teresa Palmer as Doss’s eventual wife Dorothy and Sam Worthington as Capt. Glover, “Hacksaw Ridge” is as much a love story as it is a tale of gritty resolve and strength of character.
WATM sat down with some of the stars behind the film to find out what their motivations were for tackling a character as complex as Doss and to get a sense why those who’ve “been there and done that” should get to theaters and see the epic film themselves.
Director Mel Gibson and actor Andrew Garfield explain the difficulty of portraying a soldier as complex as Pvt. Desmond Doss:
Actors Vince Vaughn and Luke Bracey talk about how vets inspired them for their roles:
Actor Teresa Palmer gives an intimate look at the experience of her family during World War II: