Disney+ launched a Comic-Con@Home 2020 panel for their new scripted series The Right Stuff, which will explore the early days of the U.S. space program through the “Mercury Seven” — the military pilots who became the first NASA astronauts during the space race of the Cold War. “Competing to be the first in space, these ordinary men achieve the extraordinary, inspiring America to turn toward a new horizon of ambition and hope,” boasted Comic-Con International.
The first original scripted series from National Geographic for Disney+ promises to take a “clear-eyed look” at the newly-formed NASA. Set to release in late 2020, the series debuted a first look in a panel moderated by Former NASA Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison.
Yes, that Dr. Mae Jemison.
Jemison was not only the first African American woman selected for the NASA astronaut program — she was the first woman of color in the world to go into space. Watch the full panel right here:
Blast Off with Disney+’s “The Right Stuff” | Comic-Con@Home 2020
The panel revealed the first official clip of the series, introducing Alan Shepard to the uninitiated. Shepard, of course, went on to become the first American to travel to space and he remains on the short list of men who have walked on the moon.
“You gentlemen are accustomed to testing dangerous, unproven aircraft and yet somehow you’ve made it this far in one piece. Most of you have families. You have careers. You have lives. That could all come to an abrupt halt if you sign on to this endeavor. We want to take thirty-two of you to Lovelace Clinic for medical evaluations, but only seven of you will have what it takes. And those seven will be the Mercury Astronauts,” intone the recruiters in the clip.
Warning of the Russian advances, the clip sets the stage for America’s acceleration in space.
The original seven astronauts who flew for Project Mercury were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, and of course, Alan Shepard. Also known as the Original Seven and Astronaut Group 1, they were among America’s finest military pilots. Each of the trailblazers is now deceased, but their legacy lives on.
Making Alita, the humanoid main character in “Alita: Battle Angel,” work next to live-action characters onscreen was the biggest challenge for the visual effects team to bring to life in the film.
You may not have realized it, but a lot of work went into making the character’s big, bright brown eyes look just right, especially after the film’s first trailer.
“We had our original design, all based on the original artwork and [producer] Jim [Cameron]’s artwork and [director] Robert [Rodriguez]’s artwork, and even after the first trailer that came out, we got some criticism online about, ‘Hey, the eyes are too big. They don’t look right. Uncanny valley,'” visual effects supervisor Eric Saindon told Insider during a visual effects press day for the film at the Walt Disney Studios lot.
Here’s how Alita looks in the first trailer released for the film.
(20th Century Fox)
Based on the Japanese manga series “Gunnm,” the film follows a female cyborg, Alita, who has trouble remembering her past.
Saindon said the visual effects team spoke with Cameron and Rodriguez after the trailer came out in December 2017 to see what they thought of the criticism and whether or not they should change Alita’s look at all as a result.
“‘Do we want to shrink the eyes?'” Saindon said. “They came back and both said, ‘Absolutely not, we’re going to go bigger on the eyes.'”
“We didn’t actually go bigger on the eyes, but we did enlarge the iris,” Saindon continued. “We reduced the amount of sclera, the white around the eyes, and it sort of just popped everything back together. It popped her to be that manga character, but to be able to sit next to a live-action character. You never questioned it.”
You can see how Alita changed from that first trailer to the final film here. It’s a subtle change you may not have noticed:
Alita’s face is also softened a bit more in the final film. The lighting in this scene is a bit brighter on her face now.
(20th Century Fox)
Why Alita’s eyes were the most important to get just right
For the team, it was important to get the eyes right because not only is that the first thing you see when you meet Alita, but they believed that was going to be one of the main things that helped sell the believability of the character to audiences.
“Eyes are really critical in an actor’s performance,” said animation supervisor, Mike Cozens. “That’s why, you know, as shots get more intimate, we cut in closer and closer… Eyes are sort of what are telling you what’s going on inside the head, keeping that performance alive in the eyes, beyond the design and into performance was really critical, a critical part of the storytelling.”
Here’s how Alita looks when she opens her eyes for the first time in the films first trailer versus the final film.
(20th Century Fox)
“Truly, the eye size shouldn’t matter,” added visual effects supervisor for Lightstorm Entertainment, Richard Baneham. “Ultimately, when we look at a screen, I think it’s point-four of a second for us to read whether there are eyes onscreen or not. We immediately, as humans, go to that, because we want to understand how somebody is emotionally, what their state is. It’s what we do when we meet people, it’s how we read the room.”
Baneham said that regardless of the eye size, you can usually tell a person’s emotional state almost instantly through posture and their facial expression. That’s why it was important to get Alita’s eyes just right.
“So long as you communicate properly the emotional state of the character, the eye size, not that it’s irrelevant, it shouldn’t be the thing that’s in the way,” added Baneham. “We often say on our side, you don’t smile with your face, you don’t smile with your mouth, you smile with your eyes… As soon as you, you can cut to a pair of eyes and tell whether somebody’s smiling.”
If you covered up everything but Alita’s eyes in this image, you would be able to tell she’s smiling.
(20th Century Fox)
This isn’t the first time a trailer’s criticism has resulted in changes to a film.
After the release of the first trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog film in April 2019, the video game character’s design sparked criticism and jokes online.
The image on the left shows Sonic’s original design. The image on the right shows how Sonic looks after the redesign.
How does the “Alita” visual effects team feel about receiving audience criticism right away after a trailer’s release?
“I didn’t mind hearing input from the outside world. It really solidified us, though,” said Saindon of reactions to the first trailer. “It kind of got everybody together and the real choices that were made beforehand kind of held. There was hardly any change, if you will, because I remember having, we had various different sizes and stuff out there and we were pretty big on the trailer, and it just kind of stayed there. It just made everybody reconsider what they were doing.”
“Whether she had big eyes or not, towards the end, I think all of us realized it was worthwhile worrying about it, and certainly it’s all about this expression that’s getting through or not getting through and worrying about that.”
Most of Alita’s design comes directly from the performance of actress Rosa Salazar who embodies the character.
(20th Century Fox)
Baneham added that it’s about making sure the audience invests in the character and comes along for the journey.
“That’s what you care about first and foremost, is making sure when the audience watch the movie, they’re not thinking about the technical aspects of the movie in any way, sort or form. They go on this, hopefully, immersive journey with the character,” said Baneham of what he wants viewers to get out of watching “Alita.”
“All the changes that happened afterward were not about, you know, pandering to the noise in any way. It was about bettering the character,” Baneham added.
“Alita: Battle Angel” is one of 10 finalists in the visual effects category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The Oscar nominations will be announced Monday morning.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The submarine thriller “Hunter Killer” (out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital) had a long and complicated journey from book to screen.
Based on the novel “Firing Point” by Navy veteran George Wallace and Don Keith, the Gerard Butler movie was days away from beginning production when Relativity Studios shut down.
After a delay, new director Donovan Marsh joined the project. They regrouped with Summit and made a movie with extensive support from the Pentagon, which envisioned the film as a “Top Gun” for submariners.
Gerard plays Capt. Joe Glass, a maverick who is given command of a sub even though he didn’t go to Annapolis. The Russian president gets kidnapped, and Glass must break the rules to save the world.
Hunter Killer (2018 Movie) Final Trailer – Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common
“Hunter Killer” features an impressive cast that includes Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, Toby Stephens and Michael Nyqvist from the original Swedish Lisbeth Salander/Millennium movies
Marsh made the well-regarded South African crime thriller “Avenged,” but “Hunter Killer” is his first big Hollywood movie. He told us about working with the Pentagon, how much of the movie was shot on real submarines, and how you make an action movie on a submarine.
You’re from South Africa, a country not known for its Navy. Did you have an interest in military movies or history growing up?
South Africa has two diesel submarines, but only crew for one. One is in dry dock, and they can’t afford to take the other one out. So if I couldn’t love my own Navy, I could love the navies of the movies. Enter “Das Boot,” “Crimson Tide” and “Hunt for Red October.” Three of my favorite films of all time.
Gerard Butler worked on this movie as a producer for many years before it got made. Tell us how you came on board as the director.
The film had a different director and was months from shooting with Relativity. When Relativity came apart, the film was looking for a new home and a new director. I pitched and won the job. When I came on board, Gerard, Oldman and Common were already part of the project.
The Pentagon has been unusually supportive of your “Hunter Killer,” even hosting a press conference with Gerard Butler. What was it like working with the Navy on the movie? Did they have input into the filming since they gave your production so much access to Navy subs?
The Navy was incredible. They welcomed us in Pearl Harbor, sent myself and Gerry out on a real nuclear sub for three days, and showed us behind the scenes in the way that few civilians ever get to see. They gave us access to Navy experts, captains and admirals every step of the way, many of whom were present during filming and who made sure we stayed as realistic as was dramatically possible (and without giving away anything classified!).
The submariners want to know. How much filming did you get to do on real submarines and how much did you recreate on sets?
I had one day in the USS Texas with the real crew They were amazing; I challenge you to pick them out from the actors. I had one afternoon with the Texas at sea for helicopter shots. We nearly crashed the chopper (metal in the transmission!), had to return the next morning to shoot the emergency blow. I had one take and only knew the point they were going to surface within 100 hundred meters. They surfaced in the edge of shot and I quickly reframed!
Michael Nyqvist and Gerard Butler star in “Hunter Killer.”
What roles did practical and CGI effects play in your production?
We had 900+ visual effects shots that took over a year to complete. It was the biggest challenge of my life, and I still feel they could have been much better. To simulate reality is very difficult, and only the most skilled VFX teams with months and months of time can do it.
A submarine commander once told me, “The Army plays rugby. I play chess.” How do you approach a battle movie when you’ve got to depend more on suspense than brute action?
I just flat out prefer suspense to brute action. It’s more interesting. It’s delicious. It’s dramatic. During brute action scenes, I always end up looking at my watch. I wanted HK to create as much tension and suspense as the audience could bear and then release that with action that was quick, sharp and believable.
Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini and Common in “Hunter Killer.”
Even though the movie portrays American and Russian presidents who are nothing like the real leaders, “Hunter Killer” portrays a contentious relationship between the two countries that didn’t exist even five years ago. Did rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia help you get this movie made?
Tensions between the U.S. and Russian escalated leading up to this film, significantly adding to its relevance. A Russian MiG buzzed a destroyer, and Russian sub activity in American waters and vice versa was on the rise. This played in wonderfully to the plot of the film, which starts with two subs getting into it under the ice.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It took 20 movies with male protagonists for Marvel to give a female superhero her own film. That’s objectively pretty bad, but the studio does seem to be trying to make up for it. Remember that scene in Avengers: Endgame when the female heroes assembled behind Captain Marvel to fight Thanos? That was awesome.
Now imagine an entire movie that awesome. There’s a rumor — an enticing, exciting, but ultimately unconfirmed rumor — that such a movie, an all-female Avengers flick, is in the works.
We’re talking about a movie based on A-Force, a comic book series published in 2015 and 2016. The 15 issues chronicled Marvel’s first all-female team of Avengers: Captain Marvel, Medusa, She-Hulk, Singularity, Dazzler, Nico Minoru, and Dazzler Thor. It was canceled despite positive reviews due to weak sales, including a 79 percent drop from the first issue to the second-to-last.
But despite that stumble, which did happen in a much different medium, there’s no shortage of rich female characters (and storytelling possibilities) in the MCU.
The women who played some of those characters — Tessa Thompson, Brie Larson, and Karen Gillan specifically — pitched Marvel boss Kevin Feige on the idea of an all-female Avengers movie on the set of Endgame in 2017. It’s easy to imagine (but again, unconfirmed) that their suggestion combined with the strong box office performance of Captain Marvel prompted Feige to think about how to add more women to the MCU.
But whatever the impetus, it’s already happening. There are two female-led superhero movies in the Marvel pipeline with Black Widow and Thor: Love and Thunder as well as Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and WandaVision coming to Disney+.
Sources told We Got This Covered that the first step toward an A-Force movie is She-Hulk, which won’t premiere until 2022. That means we’ve got a while to wait, but if Marvel pulls it off the way then the wait will have been worth it.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
When the cheers of the viral military homecomings have dissipated and the videos stop playing, real life begins. Netflix’s new documentary, Father Soldier Son, pulls back the curtain and brings the viewer into the reality of the military family and the devastating cost of a 20-year war.
The public perception of a military service member leans toward words like heroic and exceptional. But they are human beings with real struggles as they live with the aftereffects of their commitment to this country. Father Soldier Son reveals that to the public. To create the documentary, two journalists from The New York Times spent 10 years (yes, 10 years) following American soldier Brian Eisch and his family.
What initially began as a film to document a battalion’s year-long deployment in 2010 during a troop surge evolved into an unexpected new project for directors Leslye Davis and Catrin Einhorn.
“We really wanted to tell the stories of American soldiers and Brian was just one of many [in that deployment]. But his kids were just so captivating and they spoke with such honesty, openness and emotion about what they were going through. They really stuck with us,” Einhorn explained.
The documentary begins with Eisch’s sons, Issac and Joey. They share their feelings about their dad being deployed overseas and their deep fears for his safety. This is another unique perspective of this film; the public is given a glimpse of how deployment impacts military children.
The viewer then witnesses the joyful reunion for the boys when their dad comes home for a break in his deployment. It’s not unlike the homecomings that go viral on social media. But then, the directors bring you in deeper with the emotional, compelling moments when the boys have to say goodbye; something not many members of the public ever witness.
When Eisch returned to combat in Afghanistan, he was shot.
Viewers are then brought on Eisch’s journey of being a wounded warrior. “We were able to show the before and what the boys were going through while he was away and the anxiety and fear that they have. Then we showed what happened after,” Einhorn explained. She continued, “There’s this sort of iconic idea of a hero, but what does that really mean? What is the sacrifice? Brian had a truck drive into a field and then jumped out of it to try and rescue this wounded ally of his. That is a very heroic thing by all accounts and he received an award for that. But what did that mean for him and his life afterward?”
Every time the directors thought the film was done, things kept happening in Eisch’s life that brought them back. “We got to take this personal and deep dive into this family to show how it [war] impacted them over time,” Davis said.
Three years after his combat injury, the constant pain forced Eisch to undergo a leg amputation.
The events that unfold after following that are a reality for many service members experiencing physical or invisible wounds of war. This film will bring viewers on a journey filled with hope, but also devastating loss and pain. “As journalists we really wanted to make it a window into a military family…These quiet consequences and how they can ripple through a family and reshape things. That’s what we witnessed with this family and felt hadn’t been explored,” said Einhorn.
Directors Catrin Einhorn (left) and Leslye Davis (right).
Both directors were asked how the family reacted to the documentary once it was revealed.
“We got to watch it with the family…He [Eisch] thinks it’s true. He thinks the story accurately depicts his life. The first time the family watched it – it was very retraumatizing. They were in grief watching it, and shock. But it seems that it has their seal of approval,” Davis shared. Einhorn added, “He said it was both joyful and devastating for them to watch it. He turned to us at the end and said, ‘It’s true, I am struggling.'”
“We look forward to what people take away from the film,” Davis said.
The documentary is available at midnight on July 17 to Netflix subscribers. The directors shared that the New York Times will be releasing a follow up a few days after the release to give viewers an update on the family.
When watching the film, it will take viewers into the unadulterated reality for military families. Father Soldier Son is a stark reminder of the far reaching ripple effects of war.
It’s safe to say that the vast majority of troops and veterans today have seen the 1997 film, Starship Troopers. It’s an expertly crafted film and its tasteful use of special effects (for late 90s, anyway) was beyond astounding.
The film is terrific in its own right, but Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, upon which the movie is (loosely) based, elevated the science fiction genre and has a place on nearly every single required reading list created by the United States military. If you’re a young private in the Marines or a battalion commander in the Army, you will be asked to read this classic — and this is why.
In case you were wondering, these were the Skinnies. 10,000 of them were killed with only one human death.
Technically speaking, the film was originally based off an unrelated script for a film called Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine until the production team realized that it only had a passing resemblance to the novel. This lead to many of the significant differences between the two and a drastic change of tone.
The adaptation of the original script to film lead to more of a statement on how propaganda affects the troops fighting in a war in a satirical manner. The novel, however, uses the Bugs as a stand-in character for some nameless enemy to focus in on the novel’s theme of the mindset of a soldier fighting a seemingly unstoppable force.
This is immediately made clear in the first paragraph of the novel.
“I always get the shakes before a drop. I’ve had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and
it stands to reason that I can’t really be afraid. The ship’s psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and
asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn’t fear, it isn’t anything important —
it’s just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate.
I couldn’t say about that; I’ve never been a race horse. But the fact is: I’m scared silly, every time.”
Contrary to what you’d expect if you’ve only watched the film, they’re actually fighting a different alien than the Arachnids (at first.) The first enemies were called “skinnies” and were essentially just tall, lanky, human-like aliens that didn’t really cause a threat to the humans. Their entire Army is easily wiped out by just a single platoon but the prospect of war still frightened Johnny Rico, the stories protagonist.
Hate to break it to anyone expecting giant bug battles in the novel…but it’s fairly light on the fight scenes.
After the battle, the story flashes back to Rico’s time as a civilian before the Mobile Infantry. The idea of “service equals citizenship” had a different meaning in the novel. Despite the world being under the unified “Terran Federation,” the military and its veterans were treated as a higher caste than non-military people. You literally had to join the military to become a citizen.
This hyperbole was just as relevant in 1950’s society (as it is today in the military community). Despite the fact that signing up is a fantastic way to get benefits in our world, and definitely in the novel’s world, military service is often discouraged and looked down on — as demonstrated through Rico’s father.
The novel spends a lot of time in boot camp for the Mobile Infantry. It shows the deeper motivations about what it takes to be in the military — mainly the forced brotherhood, the “one team, one fight” mentality, and the loss of personal identity that comes with service. Which eventually leads to the “Bug War” when the Arachnids destroy Rico’s home city of Buenos Aires.
The novel also misattributes the quote “Come on, you ape, do you want to live forever” to an unknown platoon sergeant in 1918 — as if it wasn’t the greatest thing ever spoken by the greatest enlisted Marine of all time, Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly.
The troops are overzealous and believe they can handle it. Despite Rico being the only one personally affected by the attack, he’s also one of the only ones not to refer to the Arachnids as “bugs,” which was highly implied to have racial undertones. He instead keeps a level facade while remaining terrified. The first chapter happens around here. This is the exact mindset of many troops right before they’re sent to deploy.
When the Mobile Infantry arrives on Klendathu, it’s a complete disaster — the exact opposite of the battle with the skinnies. The Arachnids were massive and though the humans had the firepower, it was no match for the unstoppable numbers of their enemy.
Rico finally gets his chance to fight the Arachnids with the Rasczak’s Roughnecks. He and his men capture a Brain Bug and begin learning more about the “bug” society. It mirrored their own except the Warriors were the lowest caste fighting for an apathetic queen. Rico learns that aimlessly tossing troops at the problem would only result in more and more deaths.
The novel ends with a coda of the first chapter as Rico is about to make his drop onto Klendathu with confidence. He does this because he learned the value of military strategy — the one thing the Arachnids lacked.
Starship Troopers makes heavy parallels between the Mobile Infantry and Arachnids. It’s often incorrectly believed by casual readers, or those without knowledge of the military, that the novel promotes fascism and militarism — it doesn’t.
If anything, the novel explores the psyche of the troops as they head off into combat — it just utilizes an extreme science fiction setting to do it.
While most of the things COVID-19 has brought us have been horrible, contagious, disappointing, frustrating, no good and almost overwhelmingly sad (just me? No?), one of the many silver linings has been the accessibility of entertainment. Movies like Trolls released straight to television, Ryan Seacrest hosted a family Disney sing-a-long (can you tell I have young children at home?) and museums and theaters all over the world are opening their doors for virtual shows, tours and the like.
And now (well, Sunday, April 19), you can watch one of our favorite Bond movies, GoldenEye, with none other than Bond. James Bond. (Fine, Pierce Brosnan, the fourth actor to star as 007).
Whether or not he’s your favorite Bond, you can’t say no to that face.
Put on by Esquire UK, the GoldenEye watchalong will stream live on their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube feeds this Sunday 19th April at 7pm BST (2pm ET for American viewers.) According to Esquire UK:
The 66-year-old screen icon will be taking us all behind the scenes of the spy epic, discussing his time in the tuxedo and how it felt to take up the mantle, as well as interacting with his legions of fans – which, of course, is where you come in. We need you to supply us with all the unanswered questions that have been burning away inside your brain for 25 years. Send them over to us via our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages now for a chance to get them answered by the main man himself.
The idea is simple: press play on GoldenEye (rental options are listed below) at the same moment as Pierce, and listen along to his play-by-play analysis and commentary in real-time.
Hollywood filmmakers go to extreme lengths to produce bouts of nail-biting hand-to-hand combat and on-screen firefights. These sequences are exceptionally thrilling and, with the right choreography and camera movements, can be lifelike and intense.
Now, add in a monstrous armored vehicle, like a tank or two, and you’ve officially kicked your movie up a notch. Sure, some films do a great job of showing a tank destroying everything in its path, but few are able to tell a story in a way that makes the well-protected vehicle into its own unique character.
In 1995, James Bond teamed up with a survivor of a destroyed Russian research center to stop a former agent from taking over a nuclear space station. To rescue one of the notable Bond girls (this time, Natalya Simonova), 007 tactically acquires a Russian tank.
Next, our favorite British spy makes smashing a Russian tank through a brick wall and steering it down the streets of St. Petersburg look easy. If you can suspend your disbelief a little, this is an awesome scene.
Speedster cars versus a beast of a tank in ‘Fast & Furious 6’
The Fast and the Furious franchise isn’t known for its military authenticity. That being said, moviegoers expect over-the-top action and director Justin Lin provided: this time, in the form of a cool tank scene that literally popped out of nowhere. Suddenly, the film’s heroes must improvise a way to take down a well-armed tank using their clever wit and outstanding driving skills.
Sticky bombs against a couple of tanks ‘Saving Private Ryan’
There’s probably nothing scarier than being out-manned, under-supplied, and having to fight a tremendous force of German soldiers headed your way. But, in 1998, a squad of Army Rangers took on that near-impossible task head-on in Saving Private Ryan.
During the film’s memorable final battle, the young squad had to defeat not one, but four tanks before they broke through their defenses using what they called “sticky bombs.” It’s an incredible scene.
Indy takes on a Nazi tank while on horseback in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’
If any Hollywood director appreciates a solid tank battle, it’s the legendary Steven Spielberg (it’s no coincidence that he’s made this list twice). In this scene, Hollywood’s most exciting archaeologist must battle a group of Nazis riding in tanks while on horseback.
We know, those odds aren’t exactly fair, but Indiana Jones (somehow) pulls through and wins this epic duel, rescuing his father in the process.
While trying to clear their names, four brave Soldiers, better known as The A-Team, take over a massive cargo plane that happens to have a fully loaded tank in the back. Now, before the plane gets blown up, the crew deploys the tank and attempts to direct it toward a safe landings via a few parachutes .
This original idea makes for a great cinematic experience for the audience, and it’s for that reason (not military authenticity) that it successfully touched down on our list.
If you set out to make a modern day film dedicated to the brave tankers of World War II, you’ll need to include some epic battle scenes to truly do the story justice. In 2014, director David Ayer did exactly that in Fury.
If you want a taste of the intensity, check out the scene below.
Maybe it’s because I recently went head-to-head in a heated eighteen holes of mini golf with a Navy SEAL, or maybe it’s because Rob Riggle’s humor is so goofy and delightful, but I am really enjoying ABC’s new show Holey Moley.
“Last week billions watched as mini-golf swept the nation. Diseases were cured, families reunited, ABC executives promoted. The world came together in arms and wept in joy for the only sport that matters on earth: mini golf,” Riggle announced, and he would never lie.
Riggle joins Joe Tessitore as on-camera commentators while Jeannie Mai reports from the course, which includes holes like the “Slip ‘n’ Putt” (where one contestant literally fell on his face — like, right on his face, guys; he started bleeding) and “The Distractor” where golfers must try to get a hole-in-one while something, or someone, distracts the hell out of them.
Enter Sergeant Putton.
Putton may be wearing the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, but his branch is 100% “Drill Sgt.”
In an episode titled “The Thunderdome of Mini Golf,” the “Distractor” as Sgt. Putton, whose only objective was to distract the golfer enough to miss the shot.
“He’s pushing buttons. The drill instructor is pushing buttons…because that’s what they do,” observed Riggle, who would know.
Riggle’s been golfing for over twenty years and, in addition to hosting his new show, he produces an annual InVETational golf classic, raising money for Semper Fi Fund, a veteran non-profit that helps critically wounded service members and their families.
Holey Moley is on ABC Thursday nights at 8PM, sorry, 2000 hours — or you can find it on Hulu right now. Check it out and discover for yourself how satisfying it can be to watch people struggle succeed.
During the Battle of Okinawa, one United States Navy ship went up against unbelievable odds — and survived to tell the incredible tale. The Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724) faced off against a horde of Japanese pilots — some of whom, now known as kamikazes, were willing to crash into American vessels and sacrifice their lives to complete their mission.
Now, the Laffey’s story is coming to the big screen.
Mel Gibson, acclaimed actor and director of the Academy Award-nominated film Hacksaw Ridge, is currently working on Destroyer, a film based on the Wukovits’ book, Hell from the Heavens: The Epic Story of the USS Laffey and World War II’s Greatest Kamikaze Attack. The film will be centered around the 90 minutes of chaos experienced by the crew of the Laffey on April 16, 1945. In the span of roughly an hour and a half, the Laffey was hit by four bombs and struck by as many as eight kamikazes.
USS Laffey (DD 724) during World War II, packing six dual-purpose five-inch guns and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
USS Laffey’s story didn’t start and end with those fateful 90 minutes, however. After Okinawa, she was repaired and went on to see action in the Korean War. After Korea, she served until 1975, when she was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Register of Vessels. Unlike many of her sister ships that went directly to the scrapyard, she was preserved as a museum and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
USS Laffey (DD 724, right) next to USS Hank (DD 702), a sister ship named after William Hank, the commanding officer of the first USS Laffey (DD 459).
Laffey’s commanding officer, Commander Frederick J. Becton, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions that April day in 1945. Becton was a well-decorated troop in World War II. He received the Silver Star four times, including once for heroism on D-Day and twice more for actions in the Philippines while commanding the Laffey.
The first USS Laffey (DD 459), a Benson-class destroyer, pulling alongside another ship in 1942.
A previous USS Laffey, a Benson-class destroyer with the hull number DD 459, saw action in the Battle of Cape Esperance, but became a legend during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in the early morning hours of Friday, November 13, 1942. The destroyer closed to within 20 feet of the Japanese battleship Hiei and wounded Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe before being sunk by enemy fire. The sinking of the Laffey cost many US lives, but left the Japanese without command in a pivotal moment.
It seems as though the name ‘Laffey’ is destined to fight the odds.
Check out the video below to see director Mel Gibson’s excitement as he discusses the near-impossible bravery of the USS Laffey at Okinawa.
Ethelbert “Curley” Christian was the first and only surviving Canadian quadruple amputee of the First World War.
Born in Pennsylvania, Christian settled in Manitoba before enlisting in the Canadian Armed Forces almost a year and a half before U.S. involvement. It was in the Canada’s most celebrated victory at Vimy Ridge that Christian sustained his injuries, resulting in the loss of all four of his limbs.
Prince Edward VIII (who would later become King Edward VIII) visited Christian at the Toronto hospital and wrote about him in what would become a long string of inspiration that became Metallica’s One.
But it’s in their music that they show their support for the troops, using the “plight of the warrior” as a reoccurring theme. None of their songs (or their music videos) capture this more than 1988’s One.
The song takes inspiration from the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” written by Dalton Trumbo. The music video uses many clips from the same 1971 film, which was also written and directed by the novel’s author, Trumbo.
“Johnny Got His Gun” is about a World War I soldier, Joe “Johnny” Bonham, who suffers severe injuries. After losing all four limbs and most of his senses in combat, Johnny reflects on his life, as memories are all he has left. The film and novel are remembered for the ending where, after many years of insanity of being trapped, Johnny wishes only for death.
Having read Prince Edward VIII’s letter, Trumbo used the story as the inspiration for what would be his best selling novel.
Johnny may have been a fictional character, but Curley was the real soldier. And very much unlike Johnny, Curley loved life despite all that was thrown at him.
Ethelbert “Curley” Christian never lost any of his senses, unlike his fictional counterpart, and remained in high spirits through out his life.
His cheer was noticed by the then Prince of Wales, who wrote about the joyous veteran. Christian fell in love with his caretaker, a Jamaican volunteer aide named Clep MacPherson. The two would marry shortly after. Their love — and her nursing skills — would spark the Canadian Veterans Affairs to enact the Chapter 5 – Attendance Allowance, one of the first in its kind.
Years later, Christian would meet King Edward VII at the dedication to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. He described to the Toronto Star their second encounter: “Just as he was passing he paused and pointed to me, saying, ‘Hello, I remember you. I met you in Toronto 18 years ago,’ as he broke through the double line of guards.”
After many years of a happy marriage and raising a son, Douglas Christian, Curley Christian passed away on the 15th of March, 1954. His legacy still carries on through both his advancement of Canadian Veterans Affairs and being the true inspiration for one of the most iconic power ballads.
If you’re a fan of This is Us, make sure you check out The Village, a new NBC show premiering March 19th about a group of neighbors living in a New York apartment building who form an unlikely family. One of the main characters is Nick, a combat veteran and amputee who moves in during the pilot episode.
Played by Warren Christie, Nick is instantly recognizable as a vet: he’s a good wingman, he looks out for others, and he’s affected by war.
I’ve heard many veterans complain that Hollywood only portrays broken veterans, and I’m happy to report that in the pilot at least, Nick is definitely not broken. He’s lost a limb, he’s shaken, but he’s connecting with a community — and a family — which is exactly what we want for our nation’s service members.
His scene with Enzo, who introduces himself as an Army Specialist (probably from the Korean War era) reminded me of moments I’ve had at my local American Legion post; it’s by connecting with our community that we find healing (because let’s face it — at a minimum, the military is a mind f***, but at it’s worst, it is traumatic).
And community is exactly what the creators of the show wanted to explore.
From left to right: Warren Christie, Jessica Rhoades, Mike Daniels, Shannon Corbeil
It was clear from talking with Rhoades, Daniels, and Christie that the whole cast and crew were committed to sharing a positive message here. Nick’s transition back to civilian life won’t always be easy, but this show will guide him through it with the feeling of hope.
Also, there’s a dog.
Warren Christie and Magnum the German Shepherd.
(Photo courtesy of NBC)
Magnum plays ‘Jedi,’ Nick’s military working dog, who is also an amputee. On set, the two bonded quickly, though Christie shared that Magnum was not a trained ‘actor’ so there were moments where Christie was covered in peanut butter and liver to get the shot.
Christie, who worked with a military advisor, did say one thing that caught my attention. He said he felt a responsibility to convey “the strength and the struggle” of our nation’s service members. I loved that phrase. I’m lucky enough to work at a company that celebrates military victories and veterans’ successes, but veteran suicide statistics still clearly prove that we have a long way to go in caring for our troops.
Shows like this keep the conversation going. They introduce civilians to military stories and they show veterans a way forward. That’s the power of storytelling. I’m hopeful about where The Village will take Nick’s story.
I’ve already seen a lot of comments about this moment from the trailer, and I had an immediate reaction to it, too. For all my civilian readers, I’ll fill you in: to my knowledge, no one in the U.S. military salutes with their palm facing outward, something vets will easily pick up on.
Moments like these are why I encourage filmmakers telling military stories to bring veterans on board in the process as early as possible. Shows like SEAL Team on CBS have really locked this in — from the writer’s room to production to on-set advising to casting vets for stunts and on-camera roles, hiring vets will ensure authenticity for TV and film.
The Village premieres on Tuesday, March 19th right after This Is Us — check it out and let us know what you think.
The 1993 movie “The Sandlot” is a classic American coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s. It’s about nine boys spending their summer days playing baseball in an unkempt piece of land. Their summertime fun takes a wrong turn when the main protagonist of the movie, Scotty Smalls, hits his step-father’s baseball, signed by “The Sultan of Swat” Babe Ruth, into a yard protected by a massive dog known as “The Beast.” The boys must now help Smalls get the ball back before The Beast chews it to pieces. Each character in the film has a different personality and a different skill, but they are bound together by their love of baseball.
Groups of military friends are a lot like the Sandlot kids, especially when they are deployed to the “Sandbox” (mil-speak for the Middle East). And just like any group of friends, each person brings a different dynamic and trait to the group in order to complete a mission. No matter what era you served in, veterans can relate to having their group of battle buddies/shipmates be just like characters from this cult classic film:
Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez
Benny is the group’s leader and everyone looks up to him. He serves as a mentor to the others, especially Smalls. Benny is brave, smart, and a physically fit stud who can out hit and outrun every kid (as well as The Beast) with his trusty P.F. Flyers shoes on. Along with being a great player, Benny is friendly, humble, and a teacher. The best thing about “The Jet” is that he is wise beyond his years and willing to risk life and limb (for instance, hopping over the fence to challenge “The Beast” to get the ball back) to help his friends.
Military Friend: The Leader
Every group of military friends seems to have a clear leader. He or she seems to be good at everything they do. They are physically dominating and willing to take a risk for the betterment of the team. The group leader is not only awesome but selfless. For this person, it’s all about the team.
Scotty Smalls is the new kid in the neighborhood trying to fit in. “The Jet” reaches out to him, like the good leader and person he is, and takes the new kid under his wing. Scotty is introduced to the rest of the guys, but the boys are not too keen on him at first due to his lack of baseball skill. Eventually, the team warms up to him, and is simply referred to him by his surname ‘Smalls.’ Although he is now a part of the team, the boys like to give him grief throughout the movie for his lack of understanding of common things like S’mores, chewing tobacco, and (of course) not knowing who Babe Ruth is. This frustration introduces the classic line “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!” Smalls gets the team into the situation or ‘pickle’ when he hits the baseball signed by “The Great Bambino” over the fence and into the grips of The Beast.
Military Friend: The New Guy/Gal
New people are always cycling into the military. Think of Smalls as the new private/airman joining the unit. The new kid lacks knowledge and always seem to be getting in some sort of dilemma that the rest of the group needs to get him/her out of. It can be frustrating. Despite the growing pains, the “Smalls” of a group of military friends eventually becomes a reliable member.
Hamilton “Ham” Porter
Despite the physique, Ham is the muscle of the team. Don’t let the chunks fool you, Ham is a good athlete and a classic home-run hitter. Ham can also flat out talk trash like the best of them, especially to anyone who challenges his friends. The character’s most famous scene is when he tells a rival ball player that he “plays ball like a girl,” a classic “drop mic” line. Ham tells it like it is and enjoys messing with his teammates from time to time.
Military Friend: The Enforcer
Every group of military buddies has an enforcer. This military friend is probably more muscularly defined than Ham’s “soft belly meat,” but the character traits are the same as the curly haired catcher. This friend will always stand up for his friends and is not afraid of anyone.
Michael “Squints” Palledorous
Squints likes to tell stories although he does seem to exaggerate many of his tales (especially when it comes to talking about “The Beast”). He even claimed the dog ate anywhere between 120-173 guys. (Talk about an imagination!) Squints may look like a classic nerd-bomber with his big-ass birth-control glasses and teeth – on the contrary, he is self-confident, cool, and ballsy. He is so daring, he even pretends to drown at the pool just to kiss his crush, Wendy Peffercorn, who is the prettiest girl in town.
Military Friend: The Storyteller
Veterans always seem to have that friend who likes to tell elaborate stories. Despite their size and look, this friend may also ooze confidence, even if they have eyewear bigger than their face.
With his signature fastball “The Heater,” Kenny DeNunez is the team’s pitcher. He is a dedicated and hard-working ballplayer second only to “The Jet” in terms of baseball skill. He is a solid teammate.
Military Friend: The Dependable One
Most groups of military battle buddies have a great worker who may lack a big personality but is reliable when he/she is needed most.
Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan
Yeah-Yeah is a bit of a smart aleck who started many of his sentences with “Yeah-Yeah.” It’s a perfect nickname for him. He is also a bit of a daredevil when he attempted to retrieve the Ruth ball in an aerial style attack over the fence. It’s disclosed at the end of the film that “Yeah-Yeah” joins the military and later becomes a pioneer of bungee jumping.
Military Friend: The Smartass Daredevil
This friend likes to joke around and do dangerous activities. It is safe to say every group of military buddies has a “Yeah-Yeah” in their group. Maybe even more than one.
Bertram Grover Weeks
Bertram is an infielder who seems like a subdued character for most of the film, but then shows signs of a “bad boy” when he gives his friends some chewing tobacco.
Military Friend: The Quiet Rebel
Don’t mistake his quiet nature for his rebellious side.
Timmy is the architect who helped built the group’s treehouse near the sandlot. He’s a thinker in many ways and comes up with the idea to do the aerial attack.
Military Friend: The Builder
This friend can make anything with spare material and some 550 cord.
Tommy “Repeat” Timmons
Tommy is the smallest kid of the group. He is also the most bothersome because he repeats everything his older brother Timmy says throughout the movie. It’s easy to forget Tommy except for this annoying habit.
Military friend: The Annoying One
Sometimes you just want to choke him out.
Military friends are a unique cast of characters who share a special bond, especially when serving in “The Sandbox.” Eventually, friends go their separate ways but the memories of their time together live “FOR-EV-ER!”