Platoon (1986) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of 501 Must See Movies Project . He also reviewed Amadeus HERE. Thanks for the reviews, John! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on Platoon, IMDB rank 144 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. I’ve stopped receiving so many guest reviews now so if you send yours soon, it should post soon. I only have enough for the next month.

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The first casualty of war is innocence.

Charlie Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is a green, fresh to arrive recruit in Vietnam.  Platoon follows Taylor and his company as they cope with the hardships of war, and the film brings back the reality of what went on over there to the big screen for the first time since Apocalypse Now (1979).

The unit breaks into two contrasting camps: one with Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), who believes in total war and winning at any cost, and Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe), who is battle-tested but gracious in contrast to Barnes.  Each side as plenty of support, and they battle,  as Taylor puts it, “for possession of my soul.”

Platoon features a whole slew of familiar faces (Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Keith David, Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley, Tony Todd, Mark Moses), many of which were at the beginning of their careers.

A couple of things added to the authenticity of this film.  Oliver Stone’s experience in Vietnam, woven throughout the characters Taylor encounters, and the preparation the actors went through in making this film.  They trained for two weeks before filming began, building camaraderie as a unit, digging foxholes, encountering “night attacks” to get used to the special effects that would be used.  The familiarity these actors had with their weapons made the actions and emotion seem genuine.

The acting in this film is top-notch.  The characters evoke strong emotions in the audience: you either really like or really hate what a person says or does.  I found myself completely disgusted with some of the men in the Barnes camp as they abused and mistreated both Vietnamese peasants and their fellow soldiers.  An interesting commentary on this came from Taylor as he was airlifted out at the end of the film.  He describes that the Vietnamese weren’t the enemy, instead we were our own enemy.  There is a lot of killing, granted, but more of it being American killing American than one would expect.

I believe I’ve said it before, but Willem Dafoe is probably one of my favorite actors.  This film is one of the reasons for that opinion.  He is a strong, committed character whose performance I felt stood above all the others. I also found it interesting that he never wear a helmet.  Ever.  Tom Berenger, though I don’t agree with his characters outlook and way of carrying himself, brings that type of soldier to life and it fully committed to his character.

Charlie Sheen does very well in this movie as well.  The contrast and how quickly his idealized or unaware outlook at the beginning of the film is quickly shredded and almost gone by the end of the film.  He quickly loses the label of ‘new meat’ and becomes one of the guys.  His judgement and discernment remain, though, which is refreshing and relieving.

It’s interesting seeing John C. McGinley in a role like this after watching him at Dr. Cox on Scrubs, but hey that might just be me.

Platoon is considered one of the best films of the 1980s, it won the Best Picture Oscar in 1987.  It’s authenticity and superb acting both contribute largely to its success.  It’s one I enjoyed, and I’d definitely recommend seeing.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

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Pitch Black (2000) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

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Pitch Black (2000)

Directed by David Twohy

Starring:
Vin Diesel
Radha Mitchell
Cole Hauser
Keith David

Running time: 110 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
A bunch of hateful people crash land their spaceship on a planet filled with aliens who, luckily, attack them thanks to the fact that they’ve landed on this planet at the worst possible time.

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Halloween Horror Fest:

I’ve watched most of the films now for my Halloween Horror Fest and just have to finish writing up the rest of the reviews. I’ve loved a couple and hated a couple. I didn’t love Pitch Black… Here’s the list of films I’ve watched so far:

From Beyond (6/10)

The Descent (8/10)

ParaNorman (7.5/10)

Pitch Black

Insidious

Dog Soldiers

Grabbers

The Innkeepers

Nosferatu (1922)

Sisters (aka Blood Sisters)

Still to watch:

Berberian Sound Studio

High Tension (maybe…)

There was a lot of talk about Pitch Black as whatever number Riddick sequel thingy was out recently so I decided to finally check out Pitch Black after reading the following reviews for both of them: Pitch Black reviewed by MovieRob HERE and by Dan The Man’s Movie Reviews HERE plus a Riddick review from Gregory Moss at Mossfilm HERE.

I hold none of these people responsible for making me watch Pitch Black. It was entirely my decision to watch a Vin Diesel movie! 😉

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My Opinion on Pitch Black:

The most positive thing I can say about it is that it definitely had potential. It COULD have been a pretty good film. And some of it LOOKED pretty cool, at least. One of my all-time favorite movies is Aliens (and Alien). I’m not going to be able to help but compare Pitch Black to Aliens throughout this review as it’s basically Aliens but shit. Take out all the things about Aliens that make it such an awesome film and you get Pitch Black.

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Characters:

The characters in Pitch Black were, for me, the film’s biggest weakness. I didn’t care about them at ALL. I don’t know who the hell they even were or why they were on this ship. But I’ll come back to all that later…

Okay, the characters of Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell) & Jack (Rhiana Griffith) weren’t TOO bad – they were the only ones I maybe (kind of sort of) wanted to survive. Jack is the only somewhat likeable character and Fry would be if it wasn’t for something that happens at the beginning of the film (But it’s pretty important when it comes to what happens at the end of the film so I didn’t have a problem with that. In fact, this little bit of story was the only thing that gave one of the characters a bit of depth whereas none of the others had any at all).

And RIDDICK? What a horrible movie character. And the sequels are all about him? Um, no thanks – I’ll be skipping those. You see, he’s a “prisoner”. I have no idea what the hell he did or why the hell he’s on this spaceship. I don’t know if he’s a bad guy who’s actually kind of a good guy. I don’t know what he says half the time because I can’t understand him. I don’t know anything about him at the start of the film and still don’t know anything at the end of the film. What’s the point? Are we meant to like him? Are we meant to hate him? Are we meant to identify with him in any sort of way? Are we meant to think he’s cool because he has muscles and mumbles a lot and has freaky eyes because he paid someone to give him eyes that could see in the dark since he was going to spend his life in a dark prison? (Did I get that right?). Oh how convenient that he was on this spaceship with those eyes! But I’ll come back to that later too…

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So here comes my main comparison to Aliens: You can argue that Aliens also has some pretty one-dimensional & cliché characters as well. A lot of sci-fi does, which is unfortunate as I’d have to say sci-fi is probably my favorite genre when it comes to movies if I was forced to choose just one. But Ripley is pretty complex and has a backstory and KICKS ASS so Radha Mitchell’s Fry has nothing on her. Say what you want about Newt but I loved the Ripley/Newt relationship. Pitch Black makes a small, pathetic attempt to give us a similar sort of relationship between Radha & Jack. Meh. Who Cares.

Riddick is a combination of several characters from Aliens, I suppose, but Hudson is the first one to come to mind. The prick. Hudson is SO cliché but, honestly, who doesn’t actually love that character?! I actually know more about all the lesser characters in Aliens who you KNOW from the start have been put into the film just to die than I do about Riddick or anyone else in Pitch Black. I can even name all the characters who are “just there to die” in Aliens but I had to look up everyone’s name in Pitch Black immediately after seeing it (other than Riddick’s and I mainly knew that thanks to the sequels being named after him)! My long winded point is this: The characters in Aliens, although pretty cliché, just WORK. They don’t in Pitch Black. Is it REALLY that hard to give a movie some decent characters?? It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

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The Story (SPOILERS!!!):

I know Hollywood scripts are full of things that are WAY too convenient sometimes but, holy hell, Pitch Black really takes the cake! I admit that I was confused throughout this movie (probably because I didn’t care). I’ve even read the whole plot online now, though, and nothing is explained so maybe it wasn’t just a case of me not paying attention. Here’s what I don’t get:

– Who the hell are these people and why are they on this spaceship and where the hell are they going? It’s such an odd assortment of people! And why oh why is a prisoner also onboard and all chained up? And why is there a young kid also there with no apparent family?

– So while on autopilot, the debris from a comet damages the ship and (um, luckily?) the second-in-command, Fry, is awakened (from, um, hypersleep?) after debris kills the sleeping captain (convenient). Okay. I can buy the comet causing the ship to crash. Shit happens. This is necessary for the movie.

– So Fry manages to land the ship on some strange planet. Okay. This planet has three suns or some such shit, meaning it’s ALWAYS daylight. Okay. Fine.

– This planet has creatures/aliens that can’t stand light and are actually hurt by any sort of light so they have to live underground in caves (how sucky for them to have to live on this three-sun planet, then). But… Wait!

– This planet has a year-long eclipse every 22 years, allowing the creatures to come out & play! And guess what? The ship just happened to crash land on this planet JUST as this eclipse is about to start! Convenient.

– Vin Diesel/Riddick/the mysterious prisoner reveals that he had some operation or whatever to give him eyes that can see in the dark. Oh! VERY convenient!

– These special eyes can not only see in the dark, they can also tell that the young boy who is so obviously being played by a girl is actually a girl AND she’s having her period, drawing the creatures to them all. Wow, those are some pretty amazing eyes! Convenient. And stupid!

– Blah blah. Most of them die. Except Riddick, obviously. And I had to Google his final line because I couldn’t even understand what he’d said.

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I’m sorry – this “review” is actually just me bitching. I was going to say a couple nice things but I’m sure everyone has stopped reading by now. 😉

I’ll just give you my rating, which isn’t as low as you’d think after all my bitching. Because the film DID have potential but that annoys me even more than when a movie is just 100% bad. I love sci-fi and the alien creatures in this aren’t too bad and the whole look of the film was interesting. Shame about the characters…

My Rating: 5.5/10

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