Disney’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is still doing big business at the domestic box office as it stayed in the top spot for a third consecutive weekend after taking in $33.7 million. But compared to its previous chapters in the Skywalker saga, the movie is a little sluggish by “Star Wars” standards.
The movie’s domestic total is now at $450.8 million, a fantastic figure for any blockbuster after three weeks, but at this time two years ago “The Last Jedi” had brought in $531.5 million. And 2015’s “The Force Awakens” raked in the domestic cume after the third weekend of an incredible $742.2 million.
At the end of the day it’s not how fast you get to id=”listicle-2644164132″ billion, but if you get there, and “The Rise of Skywalker” will certainly do that, as the movie’s worldwide total to date is 8.8 million. But the performance by “Skywalker” in the coming weeks will be interesting to track, as it might finish its theatrical run without getting to 0 million domestically. A figure that both “Force Awakens” (6.6 million) and “Last Jedi” (0.1 million) surpassed.
Sony supplied the rest of the box office power this weekend with three very different titles.
“Jumanji: The Next Level” continues to be a strong counterprogrammer to “Rise of Skywalker” as it came in second place with .5 million. Its domestic cume is over 6 million (over 0 million worldwide), proving the franchise will continue on for years to come.
Then it was a battle for third place between “Little Women” and “The Grudge.” Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the classic edged out the horror with a .5 million take. But the latest reboot of the “The Grudge” has nothing to be upset about. Despite a 16% Rotten Tomatoes score and an F CinemaScore, the movie overperformed with a .3 million opening weekend (it was made for million).
Lionsgate/MRC’s “Knives Out” continued to be one of the top-earning original titles released in 2019 (bringing in million over the weekend, only a 9% drop from last weekend), but its performance in China has shocked everyone. Rian Johnson’s whodunit, which he made after doing “The Last Jedi,” has brought in over million in the Middle Kingdom, which is more than what “The Rise of Skywalker” has earned there (over million).
A24’s “Uncut Gems” continued to ride its critical acclaim and award season buzz to bring in some impressive box office numbers, as the Safdie brothers movie starring Adam Sandler brought in .8 million over the weekend. That marks only an 18% decline from last weekend contributing to a million cume.
Disney’s “Frozen II” is the highest-grossing animated movie of all-time with over id=”listicle-2644164132″.3 billion worldwide. It passes the first “Frozen,” which had the previous record with id=”listicle-2644164132″.28 billion.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There is a very robust veteran community within the entertainment industry. Veterans in Media and Entertainment is a nonprofit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in the film and television industry. The Writers Guild Foundation has a year-long writing program for veterans. And hey, We Are The Mighty is a company founded on a mission to capture, empower, and celebrate the voice of today’s military community.
The military community makes up a small percentage of Americans, but plays a global — and exceptionally challenging — role. It makes sense that many veterans have stories to tell. Not all of those stories are about their military experiences, but many are. Hollywood loves a good hero story, but there’s more to the military than those few moments of bravery.
The military is a mind f*** unique lifestyle, one that does involve war and sacrifice, but also really weird laws and random adventures — and in a Post-9/11 world, we are now seeing an influx of veterans ready to dissect that world.
Enter Xanthe Pajarillo.
“Veteran narratives are begging for more diversity. When our representation in the media is limited to war heroes or trauma victims, it creates a skewed portrait of who service members are,” said Pajarillo, the creator of Airmen, a web series that explores the dynamics of queerness, romantic/workplace relationships, and being a person of color in the Air Force during peacetime operations. It emphasizes the unshakable bonds and relationships that veterans make during their time in service.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chloe Mondesir, who will play Airman 1st Class Mercedes Magat.
It’s important to recognize that there is much more to military service than what is traditionally portrayed in film and television (which tends to be the rare stories of heroism in battle and/or the traumatic effects of war).
American society has placed heroes on a pedestal, which is a very high standard to meet for our troops — and one that often involves a life-threatening circumstance. Not every troop will see combat (this is a good thing… but we don’t always feel that way when other members of our team are shouldering the burdens of war), and even those who do engage in battle but live when others die experience survivor’s guilt and symptoms of trauma.
It’s time to tell the reality of military service: the warrior’s tale, yes, but more importantly, the stories of the humans living their lives while wearing the uniform.
“Ultimately, I created Airmen to help bridge the gap between civilians and veterans. The characters are active duty, but their experiences are universal. We are complex individuals with successes, failures, and insecurities just like everyone else. I hope when someone watches the show – civilian or veteran – they’ll feel less alone in the world,” says Pajarillo.
Which is exactly what Airmen is setting out to do — and now the series is ready for the next stage of production, beginning with a campaign at SeedSpark, a platform designed to change the entertainment industry to reflect the world we actually live in.
“Star Wars” movies are going on hiatus after this year’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but fans can still expect plenty of content to come.
Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney Plus, will not only include the entire collection of “Star Wars” movies, but new original titles. The first live-action “Star Wars” TV show, The Mandalorian, will be available at launch on November 12, and more original series will follow.
Disney Plus will have to satisfy fans for the time being, as new “Star Wars” movies won’t make it to theaters for some time. After Solo: A Star Wars Story disappointed at the box office, failing to crack even $400 million worldwide, Disney CEO Bob Iger said to expect a “slowdown.”
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy reiterated Iger’s point during “Star Wars” Celebration over the weekend. Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that the “Star Wars” movies are “going to take a hiatus for a couple of years.”
“We’re not just looking at what the next three movies might be, or talking about this in terms of a trilogy,” Kennedy said. “We’re looking at: What is the next decade of storytelling?”
But Kennedy did confirm that Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are still working on their own sets of films, and even coordinating with each other. We don’t know whether these movies will be released in theaters or head straight to Disney Plus, though.
“As they finish Game of Thrones, they’re going to segue into Star Wars,” Kennedy said of Benioff and Weiss. “They’re working very closely with Rian.”
Below are more details on all the Star Wars projects in the works for after December’s The Rise of Skywalker:
The Mandalorian will be the first live-action “Star Wars” TV series ever, and it will be available to stream on day one when Disney Plus launches November 12.
It stars “Narcos” actor Pedro Pascal as the title character, a lone warrior traveling the galaxy after the fall of the Empire, but before the rise of the First Order. It also stars Carl Weathers and Werner Herzog.
The series is written and produced by Iron Man and The Lion King director Jon Favreau, and directed by Jurassic World actress Bryce Dallas Howard, Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, and more.
Cassian Andor Live-Action Series Announced! | The Star Wars Show
Lucasfilm announced in November 2017 that Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson would write and direct a new trilogy of movies separate from the Skywalker saga, which is set to end with the ninth installment, “The Rise of Skywalker,” in December.
After rumors swirled that Johnson was no longer developing the trilogy, he confirmed on Twitter in February that he actually is. Lucasfilm president Kennedy reiterated over the weekend that Johnson is still working on the movies, and collaborating with Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss on their own series of films.
New Star Wars Films Announced! | The Star Wars Show
Lucasfilm announced in February 2018 that Benioff and Weiss, the showrunners of “Game of Thrones,” would write and produce a new series of films that would be separate from Rian Johnson’s planned trilogy and the Skywalker saga.
The number of films and story details are under wraps, but Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recently said that they are “working very closely” with Johnson.
“As they finish Game of Thrones, they’re going to segue into Star Wars,” Kennedy said.
The timeline escalates, with an unidentified narrator speaking about a “system” that was initiated in 2039.
But that system underwent it’s own “critical divergence” in 2058 — which is likely when Dolores and the other “Westworld” hosts gained consciousness, took over the park, and infiltrated the outside world.
“Westworld” returns with an eight-episode season on Sunday, March 15, 2020.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.
“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the US Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.
Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.
While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.
From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.
Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:
1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!
Far from it.
In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.
In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.
Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?
2. He’s definitely not a team player
“You never, never leave your wingman.” – Lt. Cmdr. Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Photo Top Gun Youtube screengrab)
This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.
Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.
Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.
3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic
Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.
It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.
At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.
Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.
4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways
Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.
The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.
With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.
OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.
Although it’s not considered an all-time military movie classic like “Full Metal Jacket” or “Stripes,” the 1995 military comedy “Major Payne” is an entertaining family film (with some salty language). The film stars comedian Damon Wayans as U.S. Marine Corps Major Benson Winifred Payne. Payne is a rough and tough Marine who becomes a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor after being discharged from active duty for not making lieutenant colonel. Payne’s job is to impart confidence and discipline in the rambunctious junior cadets and train them to win a military cadet competition.
The film has some funny and memorable lines – quoted in military training to this day – such as “What we have here is a failure to communicate” and “I’m gonna put my foot so far up your ass, the water on my knee will quench your thirst.” In between laughs, Major Payne bestows some surprising life lessons that apply to current service members, veterans, and society at large.
1. Career transitions are tough – expect setbacks
Major Payne is served his separation papers from the Marines in the beginning of the film. Just a week out of the service, Payne finds himself in jail after a failed attempt to become a police officer by slapping a man senseless during a training scenario.”It’s civilian life, sir. I had a minor setback,” Payne tells his former commander Gen. Decker, played by Albert Hall. Thanks to the help of his former commander, he lands the job as the JROTC instructor.
Lesson: Many people face a career change at some point in their lives. Setbacks are inevitable but it’s important to be patient. It is also important to use your network when looking for a new career.
2. Not everyone is sympathetic; mental toughness goes a long way
The gif above is Major Payne’s most famous quote. He gives his young cadets this verbal tirade as they struggle to complete an obstacle course in the pouring rain. Eventually, the persistence and will of the cadets lead them to overcome the obstacle course and achieve success.
Lesson: Not everyone will be sympathetic to your plight, no matter how difficult things are in your personal or professional life. When faced with challenges, being mentally strong and determined can help overcome any challenge, no matter the level of difficultly.
3. Keep trying to improve
In a classic drill instructor tone, Major Payne tells the young men, “You’re still a shit sandwich, you’re just not a soggy one” following a drill and ceremony routine. In his own unique way, the rough and tough character is acknowledging the effort put in by the boys to improve.
Lesson: Never stop trying to improve. You can always get better.
4. Don’t give up
For Major Payne, failure is not an option. He wants victory at all costs! In order to win the military games, he puts the cadets through hell. He shaves their heads, PTs them all day and makes them run in dresses in front of the whole school. Despite their disdain for the man and his tough training methods, the kids don’t quit.
Lesson: Life will bring challenges. Don’t let that prevent you from achieving your goals.
5. Teamwork is important
The cadets are a ragtag group from the beginning. Despite their differences, they build cohesion, delegate responsibilities and establish a common goal to win the military games.
Lesson: The value of camaraderie is vital in bringing a group of people to work well together no matter their differences. Working effectively as a team will bring success to any project whether you are in the civilian or military sector.
6. Loyalty is crucial
Major Payne is given the chance to return to active duty at the rank of lieutenant colonel. Initially, he chooses to take the job offer and leaves the boys high and dry before the competition. Eventually, his love and loyalty to the cadets brings him back to see his boys in the final event of the competition. He stays on as a JROTC instructor.
Lesson: It seems the thought of loyalty as a core tenet is slipping away to self-interest these days. Being loyal to friends, family or co-workers takes time and sacrifice. Believing in and devoting yourself to someone or something you care about is a great value to have for the rest of your life.
7. Self-confidence is essential
Major Payne instills confidence in all of his cadets, especially the smallest one in the group “Tiger.” He tells him a frightening version of “The Little Engine that Could,” and makes him the drill team leader. This gives Tiger the confidence he needs to trust his abilities. Tiger’s self-confidence shines through as the boys do a drill routine with a classic 90’s hip-hop beat and old-school rhymes. Tiger even breaks it down with the “Cabbage Patch” dance and some vintage Michael Jackson moves. His self-confidence helps him lead the team to victory.
Lesson: Trusting in your abilities will help you accomplish your goals. Believe in yourself.
8. Lighten up
Major Payne is a military badass. He takes his life and his work seriously but he begins to lighten up a bit during the movie. He even has a little fun on the dance floor with some sweet robot moves.
Lesson: There are times in life to be serious, but it’s ok to lighten up. Being able to enjoy life, relax, and not be so uptight can make life more enjoyable. YOLO.
One of the few perks of quarantine is watching the entertainment community rally around those of us at home by providing us with incredible content to consume while we’re eating all of our quarantine snacks and longing for the days of simply being around other people.
If you’re going to be in social isolation, you might as well be laughing through it. And tonight, thanks to the great folks at the Armed Services Arts Partnership, you absolutely will be when you watch renowned comedian Rob Riggle interview Seth Herzog and other veteran comics perform. Here’s how to watch.
Tune in to ASAP’s live-stream show featuring a conversation with Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog, and stand-up comedy from ASAP veteran comics. Tonight’s event is just one in a series of great performers. For the full list, visit ASAP’s website.
Rob Riggle is a comedian, actor, and Marine Corps veteran best known for his roles on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, The Hangover, and The Other Guys.
Seth Herzog is a NYC-based stand-up comedian featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
Access to the live-stream will be provided to ticket holders after registering. Space is limited. Here’s where you can purchase tickets for only . Stage Pass holders gain free access. All proceeds from ticket sales support ASAP’s community arts programs.
The Armed Services Art Partnership’s mission is to cultivate community and growth with veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers through the arts. Learn more here.
Michael Garvey and Liberty perform at The White House in Oct. 2016.
For one, this show is going to be awesome. Also, ASAP has an incredible mission. Here’s their story:
We believe that trauma and loss breeds creativity and discovery.
The veterans and military families in Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)’s community prove this point. But, it also holds true for our founder, Sam Pressler. After losing a family member to suicide while in high school, Sam turned to comedic expression to cope. When he later learned about mental health challenges affecting veterans through his college research at William Mary, Sam felt compelled to act. While at WM, he launched the country’s first comedy class for veterans, as well as the largest veterans writing group in the Southeast. Within a year, a supportive community formed – one that gave veterans permission to process and express, connect and grow, heal and serve others.
After receiving the Echoing Green Fellowship, Sam converted the student organization into ASAP, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Today, ASAP is thriving in the D.C. Metro area and Hampton Roads, VA, serving thousands of veterans and military families, and empowering its alumni to become artistic leaders in their communities. As a result of our impact in the communities we serve, we have received significant attention. We have performed at The White House, have been featured on a PBS documentary, and have been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 list for “Social Entrepreneurship.”
The reintegration of our nation’s veterans is not just a veterans issue. It involves veterans and civilians, community arts organizations and local health providers, military recruiting and VA care. It requires social, physical, and artistic outlets just as much as it demands traditional medical care. Through our collaborative, community-driven, and deeply focused program model, we are forging a new path for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, and for our communities to welcome them home.
“From a pathology point of view, it’s a fascinating virus,” says Dr. Nancy Jaax, a veterinarian and Army officer. She’s talking about the Ebola virus, a subject she knows a lot about, having prevented it from maybe spreading to the entire United States. “The opportunity to work with such a unique virus was irresistible to me.”
When Jaax came to the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in 1979, not much was known about Ebola. They knew it killed 90 percent of those infected, and that was about it. It was a Biosafety Level-4 pathogen: fatal to humans, easily transmittable (maybe even by air), with no effective treatments or vaccines. So when it showed up in a group of monkeys shipped in from the Philippines, it could have been really bad for the Reston, Va. lab where Jaax was working. Luckily, the Army has people like Col. Jaax working for it.
Jaax joined the Army with her husband in the late 70s to pursue her veterinary residency. Right away, her work in veterinary medicine was significant, as she and her team discovered the first diagnosed coronavirus in military working dogs. But dogs getting colds were the least of the Army’s research needs. Jaax wound up at USAMRIID in the veterinary pathology program. A few years into her stint there is when the macaques from the Philippines were found to have Ebola. It was her job to actually look for the virus under the microscope.
When she looked at the tissue sample of the dead monkeys, she actually found they had two highly-lethal contagions: simian hemorrhagic fever, which is not contagious to humans, and Ebola. They had to shut down the facility – except for those exposed to the viruses.
This was also my gut response. But luckily cooler heads prevailed.
The Reston Ebolavirus spread to all the facilities animals, who had to be put down. Unfortunately, it also infected a number of the USAMRIID workers who worked alongside Jaax. When they went to “depopulate” the facility, just under 50 people were found to have contracted the virus. The only thing was, unlike the other strands of Ebola, none of the Reston workers actually got sick or showed symptoms. In fact, their bodies didn’t respond to the virus at all. It came and went.
No one knows why. What they do know (and the reason we can all sleep soundly at night) is that the Army’s quarantine procedures worked as planned. None of the monkeys escaped into an Outbreak-like scenario. There was no worker with a small symptom who was nervous about it but decided to hide it so he could take the Metro to go to his kids birthday party. The virus stayed put, the monkeys were contained, and no one let the virus out of the facility.
That’s why we have procedures.
You can watch the story of Dr. Nancy Jaax and her experience with Ebola on NatGeo’s new miniseries The Hot Zone, a three-night special premiering Memorial Day, May 27th at 9pm on National Geographic.
Every time a new comic book movie is set to come out, nerds flock to the internet and try to decode each and every detail in the trailers to figure what’s going to happen. Doing that kind of sleuthing relies heavily on having a deep understanding of comic book lore.
Last night, the new trailer for Captain Marvel dropped and, in short, it looks amazing. Since they’re changing much of her story from the comic books into a single, condensed, easy-to-follow plot, it’s left some civilian comic book fans scratching their heads.
Truth is, you need a good understanding of military culture to truly grasp the comprehensive awesomeness of this trailer.
Kinda spoiler-y: but these guys are called the Star Force and they’re evil. Take what you will about the plot details from that.
In the comic books, Captain Marvel, otherwise known as Carol Danvers, was an Air Force Intelligence officer turned fighter pilot who went by the callsign, “Cheeseburger.” She later joins NASA and is promoted to colonel before being caught in an explosion with an alien known as Captain Mar-Vell.
The explosion intertwines his alien superpowers with her and she takes on the moniker of “Ms. Marvel” before eventually taking on the title of “Captain Marvel” herself. She occasionally teams up with other superheros, like Spider-Man, the X-Men (which is actually how Rogue gets her flight and super-strength), the Fantastic Four, and, later, becomes a leading member of the Avengers.
The film, on the other hand, takes all 41 years of storytelling and condenses it down to her just being an F-15C pilot that gets caught in the explosion. The match-cut editing of the trailer suggests that she’s going to have to slowly piece together knowledge of her previous life on Earth before eventually becoming the hero the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs in Avengers 4.
That’s right. The Coasties may be getting a big screen superhero adaptation before the sailors do.
From the little bits shown in the trailer, we can see she was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and has Test Pilot School patches on her uniform. Earlier this year, Brie Larson, who plays Danvers in the film, took a trip to Nellisa AFB to get inspiration for her character from the real-life Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, who is the 57th Wing commander, the first female fighter pilot, and the inspiration for this new take on Captain Marvel. It’s no coincidence that Brig. Gen. Leavitt flew an F-15C, just as Carol Danvers will in the film.
Another awesome Easter Egg is her wingman, Lt. Maria “Photo” Rambeau. In the comics, Rambeau isn’t too noteworthy of a character. In the trailer, we see her taking on the moniker that her daughter, Monica, has as a callsign. Monica Rambeau later becomes an Avenger (more commonly known as Spectrum) and serves in the Coast Guard before becoming a superhero. Since this film is set in 1995, that leaves more than enough time for Monica to grow up and become a superhero by the time Avengers 4 takes place.
If you watch carefully, you’ll notice Carol’s cat is named Goose, a subtle nod to Top Gun. In the comics, the cat is actually named Chewie and is actually a demonic alien that can go through pocket dimensions that tries to kill Rocket Racoon at every occasion. In the film, the kitty just seems to be a regular cat with a name fitting of everyone trying to become a pilot in the late 80s and early 90s.
Usually, any mention of “computer-based training” leads to more groans from troops than any GI Party ever could. Not so for these military video games. These games are more like those marathon weekends playing “GoldenEye 64” during the junior high years. Bring out the military equivalent of Funyuns and Mountain Dew (Sunflower seeds and Rip-Its?) and settle in to become the best U.S. troop that ever roamed virtual Earth.
Developed by the U.S. Army and one of the most prolific developers of Super Nintendo (SNES) games, the Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator (MACS) used a light gun to rate how well a soldier shoots. MACS also aided in learning to zero a rifle and other basic aspects of marksmanship. The light gun isn’t the standard issue SNES weapon, it’s a replica of Jäger AP-74, which is itself styled after the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military.
Virtual Reality Combat Training
The VIRTSIM System, created by Raytheon, is an immersive, open space, VR training ground. The basketball court-sized game pad keeps track of a soldier’s movements through the use of a rubber pad and a weapon-mounted controller. The limitations of the game and the environment allow for the troops to train on responses to incoming fire of different kinds, but they can’t jump for cover and they will never be as tired in the training simulator as they might be after days of dismounted patrols in the real world. The system’s benefit is that it is a way to train for scenarios that the Army cannot recreate and allows for troops to familiarize themselves with the weapons and equipment they’ll carry in a real-world situation.
Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox)
In 2004, game producer THQ and The U.S. Army-funded Institute for Creative Technologies dropped “Full Spectrum Warrior.” Recognizing that millennials coming into the military since 2000 grew up playing video games, the Army’s Science and Tech community created this first attempt at leveraging video games for training purposes. There were two versions of “Full Spectrum Warrior,” the one released to the public, and the one used as a training tool. The Army’s version is unlocked via a static code (HA2P1PY9TUR5TLE) on the code input screen. The player issues orders and directions to virtual fire teams and squad members, over whom he does not directly control. Another version of the game, called “Full Spectrum Command,” would be introduced later for company-level commanders.
Tactical Iraqi (PC)
The “Tactical Iraqi Language and Culture Training System” brought scenario-based PC gameplay to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines before their Surge deployment to Iraq in 2007. The game was developed to teach Iraqi situational language and gestures as well as cultural nuances in a virtual world that could be applied to real-world deployments. It brought Marines face-to-face with Iraqis during simulated missions. The game reduced several months of cultural training to 80 hours of computer-based training.
America’s Army (PC, Xbox)
“America’s Army” is not just a game, it’s a series of games. The U.S. Army developed and published this first-person shooter to provide a virtual soldier experience that was “engaging, informative, and entertaining.” Since its initial inception on PC in 2002, it has grown to include iterations on Xbox, Xbox 360, arcade, and mobile apps. The platform has also extended to other government training platforms to further train troops. The latest iteration, “America’s Army: Real Heroes” featured specific, real-world soldiers who have distinguished themselves in combat. The series has won dozens of awards, including Best Action Game of E3 by GameSpy and Best First Person Shooter from Wargamer.
Virtual Battlespace 2
“Virtual Battlespace 2” (or VBS2) gives instructors the ability to create custom battlefield simulations that engage the players (read: soldiers) from multiple viewpoints. Like “Full Spectrum Warrior,” it also gives soldiers the ability to issue orders to squad members. As of 2012, the game was still being used for Basic Combat Training scenarios. It teaches land nav, combat scenarios, and platoon-level group strategies. The biggest advantage of using VBS2 is that new soldiers learn from their mistakes more easily and faster, with fewer consequences than say, getting lost in the woods in a land nav exercise.
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.
It’s 1987, I’m four years old and watching Predator. It was the 80s, so yeah, I lived on the edge. Arnold Schwarzenegger is yelling, “Get to the chopper!” and using mud to hide his thermal signature from a nasty, invisible alien. As I watch and re-watch Predator, awed as Arnold plays Major “Dutch” Schaefer, a Green Beret leading a covert, rescue mission, an idea pops into my mind: “I should be in Special Forces.”
Twenty-five years later, I don my Green Beret and earn my tab. Today, there’s still no question in my mind that Hollywood movies had a lasting impact on my decision to serve, and I’m not alone — you know it’s true.
Thirty years later, Arnold continues to inspire the next generation of military movies — even if he’s not hunting aliens or a robot sent from the future. Anyone who’s served knows the age-old saying, “attention to detail” and today, Arnold’s team at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy is committed to helping Hollywood storytellers get the details right about military life. The Schwarzenegger Center recently hosted a workshop that combined the best of the Hollywood world with some of the best military leaders from across the globe, many of whom will become Generals/Air Chief Marshall (gotta love the foreign ranks). Regardless of what flag was Velcroed to their flight suit, the mission for those in the room was clear: build relationships that can extend into an idea, a script, and even a movie.
Arnold told We Are the Mighty,
“Hollywood wouldn’t be the same without the stories of our military’s heroism that have inspired Americans and taught the world our values. I’m proud the Institute can support this important collaboration by bringing together top military and entertainment talent.”
Heroism, unshakable values, and collaboration brought the best of the best together. Participants in the discussion included Jerry Zucker (Director of Airplane!), Sarah Watson (Creator/EP of The Bold Type), Jon Turteltaub (Director of National TreasureThe Meg), and actor Jamie G Hyder (True Blood, Call of Duty), along with pilots from the Air War College International fellow program, which included officers from 20 nations, as well as representatives from the U.S Navy’s Hollywood liaison office. This pairing of two seemingly different worlds couldn’t come at a better time. All branches of the military continue to work tirelessly each year to meet their recruiting, retention, and readiness goals, while Hollywood has continued to push mega-movies with a military spin, like the freshly released Captain Marvel, and create new platforms for military storytelling, like Netflix, Hulu, and We Are The Mighty (yeah, yeah… shameless plug).
L-R: Jerry Zucker, Sarah Watson, Jon Turteltaub, Katie Johnson discuss their roles as storytellers
Both sides discussed the various similarities and challenges in their respective fields. The pilots in the room, who almost unanimously admitted that they earned their wings as a result of Top Gun (unfortunately not a Schwarzenegger movie), asked the writers and directors how to best share their own stories, to which Director Jon Turteltaub fired back, “Hang out with us. Even just a personal story can spark an idea.”
In addition, many of the writers expressed how participating in a short visit with the military changed their entire view of military stories. Writer and showrunner Sarah Watson recounted how impressed she was with the female sailors she met on an aircraft carrier visit. As a result, Sarah has dedicated herself to creating a female military character in her next project.
The respect was mutual. Col Ken Callahan, Associate Dean, USAF Air War College, added,
“The opportunity to interact with the entertainment industry at the Schwarzenegger Institute event was priceless. Helping future Air Chiefs from allied and partner nations better understand the role Hollywood plays in expressing American values globally is exactly what we are trying to achieve. Our sincere thanks to Mr. Schwarzenegger, his staff, the team at USC, and all of the amazing and talented individuals that took time out to help forge new partnerships with our group.“
Lt. Col Andreas Wachowitz, German AF (left), chats with writer Will Staples
The discussions throughout the day included deep dives into how various successful collaborations between the US military and Hollywood, such as The Last Ship and Transformers, can shape public affairs, recruiting, and soft power diplomacy. Basically, the military leaders asked if movies can make the world safer, and the answer was a resounding yes (especially if we are one-day attacked by Predator aliens).
The real question of the day came from Norman Todd, EVP of Johnny Depp’s company, Infinitum Nihil, who asked, “Who is the greatest Hollywood Actor?”
“We love Arnold,” Capt. Russell Coons, director of the Navy Office of Information West responded immediately. Even an Army guy can agree with that answer. We’ll continue to keep you updated as Arnold, both a great actor and leader, continues his effort to bring the military and Hollywood closer together.
An assistant patrol leader with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, applies camouflage paint to his face.
Most people don’t think about evil. The force of evil is certainly out there, but it’s on a different street, a different city or across the ocean. Evil is something we see as a plot in Hollywood, in movies like Joker. It isn’t something most people give much thought to.
But for veterans, it’s different.
I sat at a table with a veteran friend of mine, sipping coffee in a local cafe. He looked around as we talked about where we’d been and things we’d done. “They’ll never know,” he said. “I mean, how could they?” Our fellow patrons were having conversations a million miles away from ours, talking about things like kids, yoga and groceries, not darkness or things that haunt us. “I suppose it’s better that way,” he added.
Maybe it is, I thought, but maybe not.
The recent depiction of The Joker has become the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is now an Oscar front-runner for his personal dive into villainy. For a society that doesn’t understand or talk about evil, The Joker has clearly found an audience. Phoenix’s rendition of Arthur is not the villainous story you might guess though, instead, it’s a man driven by his quest for love and entertainment; he hardly seems like a villain.
Phoenix said he prepared for this role by identifying with “his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition: how does one end up being evil if all they want is love? This is the question and the genius of Joker. The same question haunts many veterans today. What is the difference between the pursuit of love and evildoing? Seems obvious, right? Maybe not, if evil never seems to be the aim. Yet, somehow people end up there – doing things that destroy the world around them. Even Hitler, a real life villain, once said, “I can fight only for something that I love.”
People want to believe that evil is something they can spot, as if it wears an enemy’s uniform and is clearly recognizable as “the bad guy.” The reality is, evil isn’t just lurking in a dark alley, waiting to sneak up on you when you least expect it. For some veterans, evil isn’t only external, although it certainly may have started that way. Evil isn’t something in a far-off land for us. It’s something we’ve carried home and something with which we have to deal. Carl Jung once said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darkness of other people.” What most veterans don’t know, but soon find out, is that facing evil out there means facing it inside of ourselves, too.
I have witnessed this realization many times in veterans, sitting next to them as they struggle with how the world could be this way. How could it be? Where is the good? As a chaplain and a social worker, I have seen, even been part of, people losing their hold on a world that they can picture themselves living in. The feelings of helplessness and sadness are overwhelming when facing a world with all its deficiencies.
It can be horrifying to think that we have something in common, even sharing the air, with the Jokers of the world. The genius of Phoenix’s performance is that most of us can see parts of ourselves in his character. This is what makes coming back from war so difficult; there is no shutting your eyes. Facing the realities of evil post-war is harder in a society that also wants nothing to do with it.
Service in the military shocked my own naiveté, forcing me to grasp with my own encounters with evil around me, even in me. War, more than any other environment, is the great tester. It reveals all of the little cracks and strengths. It is the great kiln of life. Perhaps facing these demons is a reason for the stubborn rising suicide rate and extreme isolation we see in veterans post-war. It also explains why veterans so often take roles in protecting people from it — serving in law enforcement and security.
For those who haven’t served, who has not felt the pain of betrayal, neglect or helplessness at an abuse of power? Allowing ourselves to experience the abyss of evil is “fearless”, as one critic said of Phoenix’s performance. Who has not found themselves filled with thoughts of revenge? Perhaps a better question then is: Why aren’t all of us Jokers? Why don’t we all go mad? Maybe we are. Maybe there’s a little villain in all of us.
Not all veterans can face their demons. Not facing the villain, outside and in, leads to a space you can’t share, a place where you join the Jokers of the world. This would explain why some veterans think of suicide as an honorable thing, saving the world from the Joker they have become. Some just drive faster, drink more, turn up the music and close their eyes when these evils start to appear.
There is good reason to avoid looking – we might not be prepared to fight the evil we see. Heath Ledger’s plunge into the character of evil may have led him to places that he could not find his way out from. Encountering true evil and the thin veil that separates us leads most to question our own capacity to overcome it.
Evil hides in omission — our lack of doing as much as our acts of doing. Stopping evil does not mean that we weaken or blind ourselves. Instead, as many veterans do, they choose to see the enemy, even if it’s within, rather than hide. The confrontation is fraught; not just with evil’s existence but in the failure to do good when they can. Veterans who find their way back home learn this. Veterans like Chase Millsap who saw local nationals murdered after working with U.S. soldiers and created a way for them to be safe withnooneleft.org. Veterans like Noel Lipana, who couldn’t make sense of his actions and has found a way to tell his story and shape others through an art performance piece. They could not omit. They decided that the way back is to do good. To exert agency over their helplessness in the face of evil. Is this not the only way? To do good, in the face of evil.
The last decade has brought new thinking on this as well, rethinking post-traumatic stress disorder toward a term called Moral Injury because it tracks better to veterans’ experience of war — that evil, sometimes our own, shocks our worldview. To see evil and the ugliness of humankind can shake you to your core and leave you with lingering questions. An abbreviated definition of Moral Injury refers to the lasting impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and expectations of self or others. Perhaps another definition is that Moral Injury is the impact of coming face to face with evil, even if it’s our own. Facing evil in the world can leave you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, these questions aren’t new, they just aren’t often talked about. Maybe that’s why evil and veil are just letters rearranged differently; both are thinly seen.
The story of the Joker is the story that veterans know all too well. Today’s society leaves most willfully blind to the struggles and evils in the world, leaving many veterans grasping for answers to questions that their neighbors are not asking. At first glance, it does seem easier to omit them, but closing our eyes to them will not save us. Perhaps the reason the Joker has garnered so much international attention is because it’s telling a story we all know, but don’t like to look at. A story that needs to be told.
We don’t say things we should. We don’t look at injustice if we can avoid it. We avoid confrontation when possible. We choose to close our eyes, rather than see.
The Joker invites all of us, not just veterans, to manage our own shadows by doing the good we know to do. Veterans don’t have the market cornered on this, most just signed up for it and are learning how to live with the evil around us.