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Austin Morgan
Austin Morgan

The Chocolate Soldier YIFY

Greetings again from the darkness. During the movie, Afghanistan is referred to as "the graveyard of many empires". Traditionally, January is the graveyard of most new movie releases, so it's a pleasant surprise when we see an entertaining, well-made and historically interesting film, and it's still mid-January! Doug Stanton's book "Horse Soldiers" is the source material for director Nicolai Fuglsig's first feature film, and it's anything but a disappointment.The film opens on September 11, 2001 and subjects us, yet again, to those horrific images seared into the minds of anyone alive on that day. What most of us didn't know, was that about a month later, a team of U.S. Army Special Forces (the Green Berets) were being dropped into the rough and mostly unfriendly terrain of Afghanistan. This ridiculously courageous team of 12 men had one mission: secure Mazar-i-Sharif to prevent a takeover by the Taliban. An early scene tells us this won't be the usual blind patriotism we often see on screen. One of the soldiers, Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon), is told (with a bit of anger) by his wife, "I'll love you when you get back." This contrasts to the usual loyal and stiff-upper-lip military wife we see in most war movies. Another wife scrubs the oven rather than snuggle with her man, while yet another coerces a taboo pledge to come home to her.Chris Hemsworth (THOR) plays Captain Mitch Nelson, the intelligent but not-yet-battle-tested leader of a special ops team. The plan is for Nelson and his team to connect with General Dostum, an Afghan War Lord in charge of the Northern Alliance, and fight together to gain control of Mazar. After arriving at a local outpost nicknamed "The Alamo" (34 miles from town), the team gets their first surprise ... they must split up and cover the ground on horseback. Filmed in New Mexico, the journey is miserable and filled with danger - an ambush could occur at any moment, or perhaps they are being set-up by those they have been ordered to trust.Horseback riding, caves, the weather, and the elements of the terrain are all challenges, but none of it compares to facing the Taliban forces which number in the thousands, and feature tanks, rocket launchers and an endless supply of weaponry. Director Fuglsig utilizes a "Days in Country" counter so that we can get some semblance of time and ongoing misery being fought through by the Americans. But no day is normal when the soldiers are on horseback while being attacked by tanks. The odds seem insurmountable.One of the more fascinating aspects of the story and welcome approaches of the film is back-and-forth between Captain Nelson and General Dostum. Initially, Dostum shows little respect by telling the young officer that he lacks "the eyes of a killer" and isn't yet a warrior, and he spends a great deal of time lecturing and philosophizing on Nelson's behalf. Of course, the lessons may be frustrating in the moment, but aren't lost on Nelson as there is a huge payoff at the peak of the key battle.The battle scenes come in all sizes - small skirmishes and massive, large scale assaults. Each is intense and dramatic and well-staged, though there are some moments where we shake our head in disbelief. At least we do until we remember that this is a true story, and despite that, it is truly unbelievable.The supporting cast includes Michael Pena and his snappy punchlines, Trevante Rhodes (MOONLIGHT), William Fichtner with a shaved head, Elsa Pataky - Hemsworth's real life wife as his screen wife, Taylor Sheridan, Geoff Stults and Jack Kesy. Rob Riggle plays Colonel Max Bowers, who was Riggle's commanding officer when he served in the Marines. The previously mentioned Michael Shannon is a bit underutilized, but the film's best moments are those with Hemsworth and Navid Negahban (as General Dostum). You likely recognize Negahban as Abu Nazir from "Homeland". It's their exchanges that show how the line between allies and enemies is not always crystal clear - even if they are fighting for the same thing.Writers Peter Craig (THE TOWN) and Ted Tally (Oscar winner for THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) do a nice job of character development, and the camaraderie of the 12 men of ODA 595 seems authentic - despite some schmaltzy moments over their 23 days of Task Force Dagger. Early on, we are informed that the most important thing to take to war is "a reason why", and then towards the end, Dostum explains that the United States is in a no-win situation: we are cowards if we go, and enemies if we stay. It's chilling commentary on a war that has dragged on much too long ... despite the heroic efforts of the 12 horse soldiers.

The Chocolate Soldier YIFY

12 STRONG is another Middle Eastern war epic, following on from the likes of LONE SURVIVOR and 13 HOURS. This one sees a typically rugged Chris Hemsworth playing alongside an introspective Michael Shannon as the leaders of a small squad of specialist soldiers who head into Afghanistan to help fight the Taliban after 9/11. They join up with a local warlord to take part in some skirmishes in the mountains. This film's strength lies in the quality of the action sequences, which are briskly directed with a maximum of firepower and pyrotechnic effects. The explosions have never looked so real or hard-hitting. The story is simplicity in itself and the characters little more than walking heroes, but this is fast and furious viewing that delivers on its promises.

There were three big reasons to see 'Love, Romance and Chocolate'. One is that it was part of my Hallmark film completest quest started with their Christmas output in 2019, which expanded with their other seasonal films just recently. Two is the city of Bruges, which is absolutely beautiful as a place and more films should be filmed there. Three is that Lacey Chabert has always been watchable, even if she tends to be typecast she does it very charmingly more often than not. She is a Hallmark regular for good reason.'Love, Romance and Chocolate' is not my definition of a great film, but after being underwhelmed by the previous Countdown to Valentine's Day film 'The Story of Us' this was an improvement. New territory it is not and one knows exactly what to expect, but it is fun, cute and charming and Bruges and Chabert don't disappoint. While not great, 'Love, Romance and Chocolate' is worth watching and is one of the better faring 2019 Countdown to Valentine's Day films.Sure it is a long way from perfect. The story is full of familiar Hallmark tropes which makes it lacking in freshness, so to me momentum was lost towards the end and the conflict is forced. Will agree that the transitions were not always smooth, tending to be jumpy, and that the ending was too unrealistically neat.Also thought that Will Kemp had times where he was too reserved and his and Chabert's chemistry took time to get off the ground.Chabert however is a bubbly charmer and luckily her chemistry with Kemp does grow and is genuine and sweet. He also gets better and more animated when his character relaxes. Do agree that Brittany Bristow's accent is not good at all to put it lightly, but she does bring a lot of energy and vim to the film. The whole cast do well. Bruges is absolutely stunning and is like its own character, it is filmed in a picturesque way too. Wouldn't have said no though to more exploration of the culture and having less of a travelogue feel.Furthermore, the script flows quite well and is light-hearted and smile-worthy, its sweetness too not being too saccharine. The story has a very warm heart and the romantic element when it grows is charming. It's all enough to make me book a trip to Bruges and also to crave chocolate, as somebody who's on a diet at the moment that was not the best thing to crave about.In summary, likeable enough even if it didn't wow me. 6/10.

Roger Michell's LE WEEKEND (2013) offered a generally optimistic analysis of a late middle-aged English couple visiting France and rediscovering the point of their marriage. Virginia Gilbert's film offers a far more pessimistic vision. Joseph (James Fox) and Brenda (Brenda Fricker) have retired to the south of France and live in a chocolate-box medieval village in a sun-drenched climate surrounded by friendly locals. Life could not seem more perfect; but neither of them are very happy. Brenda busies herself around the house; the highlight of her day is the nightly visit to the local café where she exchanges pleasantries with the maitre d'hotel (Frédéric Largier) and eats steak. Joseph tries to deal with the monotony of his existence by taking daily walks and watching the local retirees play pétanque.Into this world come tourists Mark (Paul Nicholls) and Suzanne (Natalie Dormier). They seem to enjoy the ambiance: Mark takes a shine to the local vineyard, while Suzanne enjoys some of the historic sites. However all is not quite as it should be: Mark dislikes Suzanne's tendency to over-eat, while Suzanne questions whether she wants to marry or not. Joseph takes a shine to her (although he is too much of a gentleman ever to behave improperly), and the two of them spent much of their time talking to one another. Nonetheless all good things come to an end, as Suzanne and Mark return to England, leaving Joseph to contend with his meaningless existence once more.Gilbert's film makes much of the contrast between the idyllic surroundings and the unhappiness of the elderly protagonists. Whereas they obviously care for one another, they cannot admit that their decision to embrace the expat life after retirement was the wrong one. Brenda might or might not have the first signs of Alzheimer's; Joseph simply cannot cope with the early summer heat. Yet neither of them are capable of admitting their weaknesses; like two old soldiers they stoically continue their existences.The film adopts a minimalist style; there is little or no music, and Gilbert favors the long, lingering close-up, especially on Fox's features, as he walks aimlessly about the local village. In the final sequences, when he is bed-ridden through exhaustion, Gilbert's camera emphasizes his feeling of nothingness; he really has no reason to continue living, even though his only in his early seventies.A LONG WAY FROM HOME is a slow-moving film, interested more in mood and situation rather than plot-development. Nonetheless it captures the feelings of regret shared by many expats who have discovered that life abroad is not quite as edenic as they had once assumed. 041b061a72


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