Within our military community, the tools of rehabilitation and reintegration of veterans of our nation’s wars changes each year.
One of the most popular ways to take a mental break for the post-9/11 generation comes from video games. They’ve become an interactive hobby that allows you to turn your brain off for a while, focus on the story, and receive positive stimuli as you progress through the levels.
Simple mobile games like Candy Crush reward the players with in-game text that display positive messages or the opposite end of the spectrum; Dark Souls, where the challenge is the reward. These are all benefits in a world where some veterans live in constant fight-or-flight mode.
Gaming also provides an outlet for those who suffered brain trauma. Rhythm games like Guitar Hero or puzzle games like Portal are an excellent tool used by Army Therapists to work on and measure progress.
But do shooter games that take place in the setting of modern conflict played by those who fought there help?
YouTuber “Clients Incoming” — an Army combat veteran whose channel is dedicated to digital marketing strategy — said it best. In his video “Treating PTSD with Video Games” he says, “The adrenaline rush of being in the fight, knowing that death hangs in the balance, is not something you can recreate outside of combat.”
“More importantly, what I get out of the gaming experience in games like [Battlefield 3] is the team aspect,” he adds. “And if you’re with a group of guys that know what they’re doing and know how to approach the situation tactically and they communicate really well. That’s an awesome ride.”
Online gaming provides a platform for our veterans to interact with each other again. I’ll admit I don’t call the guys from my old unit as much as I’d like, but I’m always able to catch them online for a round or two of Playerunknown’s Battleground.
Things always pick up just like it was the last day we were all drinking in the barracks together.
What are your thoughts? Do you use video games as a therapy or a way to reconnect with your buddies? Let us know in the comment section.
That said, the military’s got gear that might give Zordon (played by Bryan Cranston) some inspiration.
1. M1A2 Abrams tank
This is one tough vehicle. In “Armored Cav,” Tom Clancy related the tale of how one Abrams tank survived being hit multiple times by T-72 main gun rounds from as close as 400 yards!
The Abrams also has superb firepower in the form of its 120mm main gun, a M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and two M240 7.62mm machine guns. In essence, this tank is already a Zord in many respects.
Might as well make it official.
2. B-1B Lancer
This plane carries a lot of firepower – 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs – and that is considering that its external weapons carriage was disabled as a result of the United States signing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The plane is also fast, and capable of flying at treetop level.
3. A-10 Thunderbolt
There is no reason why the A-10 – and its ability to BRRRRRT the bad guys with the GAU-8 — shouldn’t be a Zord. It is very tough (remember how Kim Campbell brought back a busted-up A-10?). It also carries a lot of bombs.
Put it this way — even a skyscraper-sized minion of Rita’s would be hard-pressed to stand up against a squadron of baseline Warthogs, but against an A-10 Thunderbolt Zord?
4. M270 MLRS
This vehicle gets the nod for its firepower. The various rockets it fires can spread bomblets or a unitary charge. That ruins the day for infantry and enemy vehicles, but when it uses the MGM-140 ATACMS – or the Army Tactical Missile System – it could probably put the hurt on one of the skyscraper-sized monsters as well.
5. M50 Ontos
This is more a blast from the past. That said, the six 106mm recoilless rifles provide a huge punch. The rifles could fire anti-personnel or anti-tank rounds.
In Vietnam, the Ontos was deadly against enemy infantry – and given that the fighting against Rita’s minions is likely to involve a lot of hand-to-hand fighting (until she calls in her big guns), the Ontos makes sense.
6. M1097 Avenger
A lot of this has been focused on the air-to-ground aspect. But it never hurts to be ready for some ground-to-air action. DefenseNews.com notes that Boeing is proposing some upgrades to the baseline Avenger, notably the AIM-9X Sidewinder and the Longbow version of the AGM-114 Hellfire.
Now, we have no idea what any Megazord from these vehicles would look like, but given their firepower – would they need a Megazord configuration? We doubt it. We’d also like to know, what military vehicles do you think Zordon should use as the basis for his next generation of Zords?
Country music star and Army veteran Craig Morgan is releasing his newest album — God, Family, Country on May 22. “God, Family, Country” pays tribute to his past and his future both in the music industry and in his amazing life story.
He will also be part of the Grand Ole Opry’s Memorial Day Special. The venerable show that made country music famous will salute the United States Military with its annual Memorial Day Salute the Troops Opry performance on Saturday, May 23.
Joining Craig are Steven Curtis Chapman and Kellie Pickler. This year, the Opry will also honor essential workers who are on the frontline against the war on COVID-19. You can watch it live on Circle and Gray TV stations, DISH Studio Channel 102, Sling TV and other TV affiliates in addition to live streams on Circle All Access Facebook and YouTube channels.
We Are The Mighty talked to Craig about his album and what influenced some of the songs on it. Craig talked to us about his faith, family and love of our country. His faith is a big part of his life and Craig shared how it carried him through personal tragedy. That was the cornerstone of this album and Morgan does what a lot of great musical artists do. He takes his life and puts them into words that everyone else can relate to.
Before his long career in country music, Craig served in the United States Army. He took part in Operation Just Cause, during which the United States removed General Manuel Noriega from power in 1989. He later deployed with the 82nd Airborne as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After service on both active duty and the reserves, Craig left the military in 2004.
He then began a career as a chart-topping country music singer, songwriter and live performer. Craig returns now with his first new music in nearly four years.
“God, Family, Country”, however, is a little different. It combines five new songs with some of the most powerful tracks he recorded previously in his career including, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Almost Home,” and “God, Family, Country”.
Craig came onto the country-radio scene with hits like, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester” and “Little Bit of Life.” These songs showed off his unquenchable spirit and joy for life and resonated with fans of all walks of life.
But, he and his family have also known great loss: particularly the death of their son Jerry in 2016. Needless to say, the tragic death of Jerry had a great impact on Craig. Being the artist he is, he took that emotion and that unimaginable tragedy led to him writing his most stunning song to date, “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost.” The achingly personal ballad is an emotional journey for the listener and is the centerpiece of both God, Family, Country and of Craig’s story itself.
“We’ve never had a song like this. If you put ‘Almost Home,’ ‘What I Love About Sunday’ and ‘Tough’ all together, they didn’t have the emotional impact that this song is having,” Craig says. “It’s a very tough song to sing, and sometimes I can’t even look at people when I perform it, but it’s amazing to know what God has done, and how He has used something so traumatic in my life for good.”
When asked about the song and the process he went through to write it, Craig said, “Overall, it took four hours to write. But it was a painful four hours. Writing the song didn’t take away the pain of losing my son. But it’s going to help others.” And it has. Since the song’s release, people from all walks of life have reached out with messages telling him how it really helped them emotionally. “It’s given people hope. We all have a cross we have to bear, but if my pain brings comfort then that’s what I am supposed to do.”
The story of other songs on the album is absolutely epic. For “Sippin’ on the Simple Life,” he teamed with a pair of active duty Army Airborne Rangers who were about to deploy to Afghanistan for an impromptu writing session. Craig was speaking at a USO event when two soldiers came up to him.
“These two guys came up to me after a show in Washington, D.C., and said, ‘We want to write a song with you tonight.’ I joked with them and told them it doesn’t work that way!” Craig recalls.
But after realizing they weren’t kidding, he sat down with the servicemen, ordered drinks and started putting pen to paper. just before they deployed to Afghanistan. “I thought, ‘This is a tailgate drinking song,’ and I fell in love with it. I called them and told them I’m putting it on the record. They lost their minds.”
Morgan also features a cover of the Gavin DeGraw song, “Soldier.” “I loved the lyrics but the melody is what got me,” Craig said, “As a dude, we almost always listen to the melody first and that’s what caught me.” Listening to the song, it really resonates with anyone who served. Morgan said, “It truly exemplifies the personality and the character of a soldier and I just had to record it.”
“Whiskey” is another great track on the album. A song that talks about the pain people go through and how they try to find ways to ease that pain was something that really resonated with Morgan. After the death of his son, he was tempted to find outlets to mask the pain, but his faith was able to carry him through. However, many others don’t and turn to vices like drugs or alcohol and Morgan said the emotion of the song led him to record it.
“God, Family, Country” is an incredible album that features Craig taking us on an emotional journey that most veterans (and Americans for that matter) can relate to. We have dealt with loss, pain, challenges, uncertainty, and despair. But we have also relied on things important to us, like faith, family, and our patriotism to guide us through dark times.
The album comes out on May 22 on Broken Bow Records.
When a global pandemic shut down the world in March 2020, markets crashed and rocked the U.S. economy. However, with economic uncertainty comes great opportunity for those who can seize the moment. And in the goldfields across North America, the opportunity of a lifetime awaited as gold prices spiked to record highs and the price of fuel, a miner’s biggest expense, bottomed out.
In this all-new season of GOLD RUSH, seasoned gold miners are joined by greenhorn miners eager to forge their own destinies and gamble like never before in pursuit of the greatest pay day of their lives. The all-new season of GOLD RUSH premiered with a two-hour special Friday Oct. 23, and will continue to air Fridays at 8PM ET/PT for the remainder of the season. WATM had the chance to sit down with star Fred Lewis to talk about his background and this season of GOLD RUSH.
WATM: Goldmining is a dangerous profession; how do you use your military experience to mitigate the dangers of prospecting?
Lewis: So, we pretty much run the mine site like an ODA or Special Forces Team where everybody has their own area of expertise. I’ve kind of lined it up so everybody becomes a subject matter expert in their field. It works with everyone having zero experience and tightens us up quickly and keeps everything moving safely. Everyone pays attention to their ‘fire zone’ I guess you can call it.
WATM: What is your favorite team building moment on the show?
Lewis: You know together off grid in the mountains of Oregon has been probably the best part of this season. The mining aspect and taking a group of guys who know nothing of mining and teaching them what it’s all about and just living it together bonded us a team. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. We joke so much about how it feels so much like a deployment. We do it together, we win, we lose – together. Good weather comes, bad weather comes, we sit by the fire. Hunt, fish, it’s really hard to compare this in the civilian world. It’s kind of like being in the military but you’re a civilian.
Well, we do have but they’re not for fighting.
WATM: Your story is truly inspiring, what advice would you give to veterans who want to follow in your footsteps?
Lewis: The biggest piece of advice I can give is to never quit. I know it sounds cliché but there were so many times I was told when I got out I’d be on pills the rest of my life and wouldn’t have an active life. I got involved with adaptive sports. I keep pushing myself and thinking the bar that was set for me by doctors and everybody else was super low. As I got better and kept raising that bar I just kept pushing for other things.
I’ve done American Ninja Warrior twice, I was on a show called Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, that made me realize that my story was powerful, and it could inspire people. So, I kept pushing to share and that kind of led me to reality TV. Once I realized how much it had done for me I had to bring other guys in.
I’ve been literally pushing past all the boundaries everybody has been putting in front of me. The sky’s the limit if you think about it.
WATM: Veterans are always having their eye on the future, that being said, what is next for you and Discovery?
Lewis: I look at the TV aspect of this as a way of getting our story out and share our story to inspire people. My relationship with Discovery is very important as far as the future goes, I always look at things as an uphill battle. You’re never going to get to the top unless you keep climbing. I’m just barely getting started but long term I want to bring in way more vets. Get people more involved and keep growing and pushing until we make it.
WATM: Outstanding, now that begs the question — when our audience reads this and they want to get involved, how can they reach out to you?
Lewis: I have a fully open-door policy. Everything on my social media is open to everybody and actually I enjoy getting messages from vets. I get a lot of messages from people asking if they can have a job, people telling me they’re inspired by my story, and that’s why I’m doing this. People can feel free to reach out to me at any time. I don’t have a lot of stuff planned for the future but it’s always evolving, and I want to involve vets in it.
I want people to reach out to me any chance they get. I usually reply to pretty much anybody.
WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to the military audience?
Lewis: These group of guys, before this happened, with COVID and everybody’s situations – everything was up in the air. What we’re managed to do is find a new purpose for everybody on this team that they can continue to build and grow in. Even if COVID comes back and puts us in a position where things are getting locked down, gold mining is essential.
I’ve set it up so these guys have a whole new purpose in life, outside of how much gold we’re pulling it, giving these guys a reason to keep doing things. I was in the same situation; most vets were in the same situation where we have to reinvent ourselves and that is really hard to do.
This type of work is so up our alley it is inevitable that people are going to want to get more involved in it when they see how cool it is.
Video games are known for over-the-top weaponry. In the universe of games, a seemingly tiny blonde dude can easily swing around the giant Buster Sword (see: Final Fantasy VII) and a kid with a mask is given free reign to swing around a ridiculously shaped, dual-bladed sword (see: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask).
In real life, getting your hands on these incredible weapons is a much more painstaking endeavor than simply showing up at a store and dropping a few rupees or a couple hundred gil. Tony Swatton of Burbank, California’s Sword and Stone and the crew over at Baltimore Knife and Sword take pride in forging authentic, legitimate versions of pop-culture’s finest weaponry. Together, they formed the web series, Man at Arms: Reforged, which you can find on YouTube.
Let’s set the bar extremely high right off the bat with a look at their work on a Warhammer 40K Chainsword:
Swatton is a self-taught blacksmith who got his start working on Steven Spielberg’s Hook and has been creating weapons and armor for film and television ever since. His work can also be seen on the official World of Warcraft channel in a series called Azeroth Armory.
The show expanded to Maryland and added Baltimore’s Knife and Sword crew at the start of the second season. Since then, the channel has achieved internet stardom by bringing the viewers along for the ride as they create some of the most interesting weapons from film, television, and gaming. Behind each weapon is a very long, methodical process. Each weapon takes as long as 200 hours to forge, which is distilled down into a single 10-minute video segment.
They’re also not afraid to take on historical recreations, such as a 400-year old Chinese Dandao:
Each project requires a unique approach but, in general, they employ plasma cutting to get the desired shape out of steel, mold the intricate details out of clay for a bronze cast, spend days perfecting every minute detail, and then finally assemble, sharpen, and test their new weapon.
They create content based off of YouTube comments, so if you can think of an awesome weapon that isn’t in their nearly 150-video-long catalog, leave a suggestion!
Many Russia-watchers are questioning or makinglight of the Foreign Ministry’s surprise appointment of Steven Seagal as a special envoy for humanitarian ties with the United States — but not the action-film actor himself.
“I take this honour very seriously,” Seagal tweeted late on Aug 5, a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the appointment on Facebook.
Seagal, who has warm ties with President Vladimir Putin and was granted Russian citizenship in 2016, said he was “deeply humbled and honoured” by the appointment.
“I hope we can strive for peace, harmony, and positive results in the world,” Seagal wrote.
Seagal, 66, starred in Hollywood action movies such as Above The Law (1988), Hard To Kill (1990), and Under Siege (1992). His films were popular in the Soviet Union and then in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics.
Seagal has vehemently defended Putin’s policies, including Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, along with criticizing the U.S. government.
Kyiv last year banned Seagal from entering Ukraine for five years, citing what it said were national security grounds.
The Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that Seagal’s task will be to “foster the further development of Russian-American relations in the humanitarian sphere, including interactions in… culture, the arts, public and youth exchanges, and so forth.”
The position is not paid and will be similar to the United Nations’ goodwill ambassador positions, the statement said.
When “Black Hawk Down” hit theatres in 2001, it was marketed as a cast of ‘no names’. The real “stars” were the elite troops depicted onscreen: the Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers and 160th SOAR pilots who made up Task Force Ranger in the fall of 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. The movie chronicles their 18-hour battle with Somali militias in which 18 Americans died.
But in the 15 years since, Black Hawk Down’s cast has turned into a roster of certified Hollywood A-listers or perennial movie “That Guys.” In fact, BHD’s alumni have made more big movies than any other military ensemble cast.
BoxOfficeMojo.com is a website that tracks career box office earnings of hundreds of actors. All told, the movies featuring Black Hawk Down alumni have been in have earned a staggering $12.6 billion – more than the combined career box office for the cast of Oceans 11.
The cast falls into three military groups:
The $B-Boys – Black Hawk Down actors who crossed the billion-dollar line (in the book, though less so in the movie, Delta Force is nicknamed “D-boys”)
The Regulars – you know their faces, if not their names
Asymmetric Warriors – Two roles – a Delta Force operator and a 24th Special Tactics Squadron pararescueman – were played by actors who now have massive careers, but not as traditional movie stars. We had to measure their careers differently (leave it to JSOC to be hard to pin down).
Orlando Bloom, “PFC Todd Blackburn”
Career Box Office: $2,815,831,431
You hardly recognize him when he’s not: an elf or a pirate.
The wispy, slightly-sour-faced Brit spends just a few minutes on screen and hardly speaks. But after five installments of “Lord of the Rings” and three “Pirates of the Caribbean,” movies starring Bloom have made more money than those starring George Clooney or Brad Pitt (whom Bloom starred with in “Troy”).
Ewan McGregor, “PFC John Grimes”
Career Box Office: $2,080,785,955
You hardly recognize him when he’s not: a Jedi; lusting for life.
He was a brash talking, un-Tabbed underachiever consigned to coffee duty until pushed outside the wire, but McGregor’s John Grimes – “Grimesy” – was the closest thing to an Everyman in the movie. But by the time Black Hawk Down hit screens, McGregor had already played Obi Wan Kenobi in the “Phantom Menace,” with two other mega Star Wars prequels just ahead. Together, they pulled in $1.1 Billion.
William Fichtner, “SFC Jeff Sanderson”
Estimated Box Office*: $1,495,000,000
You hardly recognize him when he’s not: getting killed.
Fichtner, one of the all-time That Guys in movie history, might be America’s answer to Sean Bean, the oft-murdered Englishman. Fichtner dies a lot. He’s met his on-screen fate on George Clooney’s doomed fishing boat (“The Perfect Storm”) and as an outlaw in Johnnie Depp’s wild west (“The Lone Ranger”), and only barely survived Bruce Willis’ doomed space shuttle (“Armageddon”). In Black Hawk Down, Fichtner’s fiction Delta soldier Sanderson is a battlefield Svengali, coaxing a team of scared, out-gunned Rangers through the day’s fight. He grows ever cooler as the fire gets heavier, dispensing tactical hints that also serve as deep life wisdom (“stay off the walls”).
*Fichtner, like several Black Hawk Down actors, doesn’t register on BoxOfficeMojo. So we added up only the giant hits you’ve almost definitely forgotten he was in.
Tom Hardy, “Pvt. Lance Twombly”
Box Office: $1,242,535,310
Oh, it’s the guy from: “driving for his life in a desert hell hole. But with girls.”
For 12 years after the movie’s release, Hardy wasn’t even the most famous actor among his small trio of Rangers separated from the main force. One of the soldiers, Nelson, is temporarily deaf, a condition played for laughs by Ewan Bremner, a.k.a. Spud from “Trainspotting.” But in 2012, he played Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” and stole the summer of 2015 in “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Jason Isaacs, “Cpt. Michael Steele”
Box office: $1,952,955,239
Oh, it’s the guy who is usually: a punchable, dickish authority figure. But in a wig.
Some guy you definitely don’t know has made two billion dollars – pretty funny, hooah? As one of many roles in a classic “That Guy” career, Isaacs plays Cpt. Steele, the uptight Ranger commander who spends most of the movie not getting along with Delta’s cool kids. His most famous moment is as the butt of Eric Bana’s classic joke, “this is my safety, sir.” Steele was right on type for Isaacs, who was also a total dick to Harry Potter as Lucius Malfoy and to 18th-century churchgoers in “The Patriot.”
Ioan Gruffudd, “Lt. John Beales”
Oh, I think he was in: A total disaster, probably (“San Andreas,” “Titanic”).
A career character actor, Gruffudd has played small-to-medium roles in almost 20 films that, combined, have brought in a little over $800 million. He also played a bit part in one of the biggest hits of all time, “Titanic.” The role was so small that BoxOfficeMojo doesn’t count it, but we’re giving it to him. Grufford plays 5th Officer Harold Lowe, who in both the movie and real life, was the only officer who went back to rescue survivors in the water. It’s Grufford who rescues Kate Winslet – and what is “Black Hawk Down” at heart if not a rescue mission? We’re counting it in Gruffudd’s total.
Eric Bana, “Sgt. 1st Class Norm ‘Hoot’ Gibson”
Box Office: $1,029,166,799
Oh, isn’t that the guy from: Tough one. You know you know Bana.
He’s definitely “a movie star.” But he’s never held top billing in a major hit. His fictionalized Delta operator Gibson – who bookends the movie with meditative soliloquies on combat and soldiering – might be Bana’s defining role. Still, Bana is a hell of a 2nd Chair, scoring 9-digit box office in “Troy,” “Star Trek,” and “Lone Survivor.” And as a sheer badass, he reached near-“Hoot” levels as an Israeli assassin in “Munich.”
Tom Sizemore, “Col. Danny McKnight”
Box Office*: $780,000,000
Oh, it’s that guy from: same character type, different war.
Sizemore’s career has been a string of grizzled combat leaders, including Sgt. Horvath in Saving Private Ryan, another NCO in Pearl Harbor and shoot-first detective Sgt. Jack Scagnetti (great name!) in Natural Born Killers. In BHD, when gunfire breaks out, he memorably orders a nervous Ranger: “shoot back.”
*Like Fichtner, we looked at Sizemore’s biggest hits and rounded up.
Josh Hartnett, “Sgt. Matt Eversmann”
Box Office: $678,425,308
Wait, was he in…: not much lately, tbh.
With all the future superstars and famous faces, it’s a little jarring to look back and realize that Hartnett was the guy featured on BHD’s original movie poster. Much of the movie tracks his trial by fire as a new Ranger team leader. But after BHD, Hartnett’s career stalled. He played the lead in Pearl Harbor, as bad a military movie as BHD is a good one, and hasn’t been in a big hit – or big poster – since.
Jeremy Piven, “CW3 Cliff ‘Elvis’ Walcott”
Box Office: $575,659,624
Hey, it’s: Ari!
Jeremy Piven has played in about 60 films but he’ll never escape being Ari Gold, the preening talent agent in HBO’s “Entourage.” Unfortunately, Piven plays his role as 160th pilot Walcott in full proto-Gold style, with cocky, hot-shot dialogue that sound more like “Top Gun” than 160th operators. Piven isn’t on BoxOfficeMojo, but he did make six movies with John Cusak, so we modified Cusak’s career box office total for Piven.
Tom Guiry, “Staff Sgt. Ed Yurek”
Box Office: $388,375*
Guiry is a chalk leader in BHD, where he’s unrecognizable from his only other well-known role, the kid-classic “The Sandlot.” I just hope that when he “fired” his weapon on set, his intended target always yelled, “You’re killing me, Smalls!”
(*the record price paid for a Babe Ruth autographed baseball)
Oh, it’s the guy who: hasn’t been funny since Season 2.
In late 1998, about when BHD came out as a book, I was a trainee at the Pararescue Indoctrination course in San Antonio – a ‘cone’ as you’re called before graduating – when Wilkinson visited. Our class knew Wilkinson as one of two Air Force PJs that fast-roped into the heart of the fighting. He gave our class a great pep talk about sticking together and, even more impressively, jumped into our training for a day. That night, our class went out for a team dinner at an Outback. Wilkinson and two of our instructors were there. After eating, we tried to sneak out but the instructors caught us and put us through several sets of feet-up pushups in the parking lot as confused diners looked on. As we knocked them out, I remember seeing Wilkinson with his arms folded, laughing his ass off.
I tell this story here to distract you from noticing that one of the most decorated PJs in history is played by the dad from “Modern Family.”
*guess-timate of Modern Family’s total ad and syndication revenue
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “SFC Gary Gordon”
Box Office: $560,000,000*
Oh, it’s: Cersei’s Bro With Benefits.
Waldau plays Gary Gordon, one of two Delta soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor for volunteering to be dropped on a crash site to defend an injured crew. Both were killed in the firefight. And now he’s the Kingslayer. That’s about as badass as a “That Guy” gets.
(*we used the total revenue Game of Thrones effect on HBO in subscriptions, DVD sales and rights fees).
It’s never too early to start up Oscar talk, and after watching the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” you’ll know what I mean.
Director Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) latest movie looks at the victory tour of 19-year-old soldier Billy Lynn after an intense tour in Iraq. The film shows what really happened over there through flashbacks and contrasts that with the perception of Billy and his squad back home.
It’s based on the universally praised 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. For that and Ang Lee’s name alone, it’s sure to get a lot of attention.
Shot in 3D, the movie is certain to be visually stunning. But it also looks like it has the emotional weight to carry it to award season.
The film stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.
Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in November.
“An author cannot, of course, remain wholly unaffected by his experience.”
These are the words of arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century and WWI veteran, John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien.
In June 1916, the newly commissioned lieutenant kissed his newly married wife goodbye as he boarded the transport to Calais, France. Come July 1st, one of the bloodiest battles in human history took place near the Somme River. That day, his closest friend was killed and Tolkien forever changed.
Shouldering the burden of leadership and the ever looming threat of death, by disease or the enemy, Tolkien carried on. Ultimately, it was Trench Fever that sent him home ten days before the dust settled.
Deemed no longer medically fit for service, Tolkien returned to his passion: writing. The rest is history.
When the second edition of TheLord of the Rings was released, the foreword stated: “The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion.” Tolkien continued with, “But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.”
He hated direct comparisons of his works to real world events. No real world leader is Sauron. No real world army are the orcs. And the One Ring is not a reference to the nuclear bomb.
Much of the psychology and emotions of his works, however, did pull from his time on the battlefield, most notably with the Dead Marshes. In the second volume (and film) The Two Towers, the ghoulish Gollum lead the protagonist, Frodo Baggins, through a swamp full of bloated bodies under the mud and water.
Tolkien’s biography, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, explained that what Frodo experienced in the Marsh was specifically based on the Battle of the Somme where Tolkien saw countless bodies across the muddy battlefield.
Themes were also pulled from his leadership and the bravery of his men. Tolkien studied at Oxford and lead men from mining, milling, and weaving towns of Lancashire. In another biography, Tolkien and the Great War, Tolkien said he “felt an affinity for these working class men, but military protocol forbade him from developing friendships with ‘other ranks’.” This man-apart thematically affected many of the characters in his novels.
One of the largest changes from the novel to any film adaptation is the “Scouring of the Shire” and the mindset of Frodo after the war. In the final chapters of the last book, Saruman attacked the Shire and all of the townspeople had to defend their home.
Afterward, Frodo was left alone.
War changed him. Frodo couldn’t just return to being a happy, singing Hobbit like everyone else after the war. He’d been stabbed, poisoned, and lost a finger. Frodo, like Tolkien himself, had become “shell-shocked” after combat.
The forward of the 1991 release of The Lord of the Rings added another Tolkien quote: “The country in which I lived in childhood was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten. Recently I saw in a paper a picture of the last decrepitude of the once thriving corn-mill beside its pool that long ago seemed to me so important.”
Although some of our favorite films are pretty “out there” when it comes to pulling off some amazing feats, there are quite a few movie moments that Marines would love to train their asses off for and totally pull off.
In a hostage situation, shooting around the victim and nailing the assailant would come in quite handy — if we could master it. But we doubt we ever could.
How awesome would this be?
2. Shooting out the floor (Underworld)
In many cases, service members have to find clever ways to evacuate from a desperate situation. In 2003’s Underworld, Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) shoots the floor out in order to escape from vicious werewolves.
This is a great idea; you know, if the physics were possible and humans could handle 20-foot drops.
If it worked for her, it should work in real life.
3. Inverting you fighter jet (Top Gun)
When flying in an aerial dogfight, there’s no better way to send the enemy an FU message like Maverick’s in 1986’s Top Gun. He managed to fly inverted and flip the bird to his rival flying ace.
This feat is near impossible, but “Mav” makes it look easy as hell.
They went ballistic!
4. Putting on a parachute in mid-air (Eraser)
In 1996, director Chick Russell took on a stunt that had audience asking, “How did they do that?” when U.S. Marshal John “The Eraser” Kruger threw a parachute outside of a speeding plane at high-attitude then retrieves the “chute” in mid-air.
We think that’s pretty badass.
Who wants to go skydiving?
5. The backbend bullet dodge (The Matrix)
At times, Marines fight in close quarters combat when charging in enemy territory, and, unfortunately, sometimes they get shot. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they could just dodge incoming rounds like Nero? We think so.
6. Shooting someone through their scope (Saving Private Ryan)
Steven Spielberg knows how to tell an effective story, and he did just that directing 1998’s critically-acclaimed Saving Private Ryan.
After showing the world how American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, he brilliantly captured the moment when Pvt. Jackson (played by Barry Pepper) takes out a German sniper with a perfectly aimed round right through his scope.
Although it’s reported Marine legend Carlos Hathcock made this historic shot, the myth has been both deemed both “busted” and “plausible” by the same people — the Myth Busters. Regardless, we want to be able to pull it off again, and again. Mostly for bragging rights.
During his time in the Corps, Hackman was demoted three times for leaving his post without proper authorization.
After Hackman had been discharged, the San Bernardino native went on to study journalism and TV production at the University of Illinois. By 30, he had broken into a successful acting career and would be nominated for five Academy Awards and winning two for his roles in “The French Connection” and “Unforgiven.”
Hackman is credited with approximately 100 film and TV roles and is currently retired from acting.
The American Forces Network (AFN) is the brand name used by the U.S. Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). It’s a worldwide network designed to be entertaining and informational for U.S. troops and their families while deployed or stationed overseas (aka OCONUS), or for Navy ships at sea. Broadcasting from Fort George G. Meade in Maryland, the network shows American programming from all major U.S. networks.
Since AFN is a nonprofit enterprise owned by the U.S. government, it does not and cannot air commercials during its programs, to avoid the image of endorsement by or sponsorship of the Department of Defense. In their place, AFN runs public service announcements from the Ad Council, charities, and — most interestingly — informational spots created by military members working in AFRTS. These spots can be “command information” or address a number of issues facing military members and their families. They vary in production value and efficacy and can be unintentionally ridiculous… few are as entertaining as AFN Afghanistan’s Bagram Batman.
Always be yourself, even on Okinawa.
2. Maintain Operations Security
“Cats cannot be trusted.” – OPSEC Officer Squeakers
3. Don’t be an a-hole in Europe
Because Europeans never talk smack about sporting events or play loud music.
4. Shop at the Commissary!
This is really an avant-garde art film.
5. Prevent theft by slapping your friends around
It’s always a good idea to slap people at the base gym locker room.
6. Don’t forget your CAC
7. Don’t just give anyone general power of attorney
This entire PSA is an excuse for a pun.
8. Your new foreign-born wife will probably need a passport
Worst. Proposal. Ever.
8. What to know about legal residency, presented by Cowboys
No PSA is more memorable than one about legal residency.
9. Creepy strangers can overhear your travel plans
Cargo shorts, flip-flops, and wraparound sunglasses complete the creeper uniform.
10. The perfect neighbor doesn’t exist
If you want the perfect neighbor, build one from leftover body parts.
11. Having a baby is the end of the world
“Who wants to pay child support in high school?” WHO WANTS TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT EVER?
12. Get to know your skin sores
Listening to this gave me ear cancer.
13. This guy needs a shower
No concern about the invisible voice in your bathroom?
14. Don’t be an a-hole in Europe, part II
“You’ve brought great joy to this old Italian stereotype.”
15. Don’t be an a-hole in your dorm room
Who is the real a-hole in this PSA?
16. This guy needs a time management PSA
Maybe don’t wait until right before formation to run by the post office.
17. An identity crisis can hit you at any time
Does Stars and Stripes have a self-help section?
18. Eating lunch alone leads to disaster
Where the hell is this lunchroom anyway?
19. “Something about jurisdiction”
Call those legal people at the legal place when you have a run-in with the police-y people while doing your boozy stuff.
20. Smokers are Blue Falcons
Maybe we should talk about the guy putting out cigarettes on his co-workers’ faces?
21. Bird Flu is comical
Try sneezing in a Marine’s face. Go on, I’ll wait.
The Punisher is one of Marvel fans’ all-time favorite antiheroes, giving the corrupt and twisted what they have coming to them. When The Punisher first showed up in comics, Frank Castle was more of a run-and-gun crazy lunatic. But as Castle evolved, so did The Punisher’s tactics.
Early iterations of the character fell into some common Hollywood traps, though.
The film Punisher War Zone was almost near-complete adaptation of The Punisher comics. The film employed crazy, off-the-wall action and run-and-gun tactics — we all know the famous image of Punisher and his two uzis. Though the movie captured The Punisher’s persona, it fell short of its military fans’ expectations.
In 2004’s The Punisher, we saw a more tactical side of Frank Castle. Using a bow to take out opponent after opponent was far more interesting than shooting up a room full of bad guys. This idea kept up with how a special operator would actually work: swiftly, silently, and deadly.
This brings us to the Netflix original series, The Punisher. After watching Daredevil for two seasons, I was so excited The Punisher was getting his own show. Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of Frank Castle was masterful. He clearly knows that many fans of The Punisher are those with ties to the military.
In this first season, we see a modern Punisher setting up improvised explosive devices, placing weapons all around his place of residency, and using shoot-and-move tactics. There is a saying, “movement without shooting is suicide, shooting without movement is a waste of ammo.” How Frank Castle moves with each weapon embodies this expression, showing a level of detail that films typically only mimic.
When Frank Castle explained that he’d rather have a knife than a pistol in certain situations, it had some very sound tactical advice behind it — and made for some really intense action sequences.
The new The Punisher series on Netflix is a good show to binge watch. They took the time to get the tactical concepts right — something refreshing to finally see on-screen.
The major downfall, however, comes when Frank barks and yells. In combat, information is key, so noise discipline is necessary. Barking and loosing a war cry works in some cases, but not every time.
So far, Netflix has done a great job of not making Frank Castle feel so “Hollywood,” making many Marine fans of The Punisher quite happy and ready to move on to the next season.