Movie Review: “Soldiers of Fortune”

Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: August 3, 2012
Directed by: Maxim Korostyshevsky
Genre: Action Adventure

“Soldiers of Fortune” opens with the line “Welcome to Snake Island gentlemen; you may never leave,” and viewers instantly know what to expect from the movie. This is the type of film wherein stellar actors have no problem chewing the scenery and giving a wink and a nod to the audience.

The film introduces viewers to Captain Craig McCenzie (Christian Slater, “True Romance”), a man who recently retired from the military after a tour in Afghanistan. The movie even shows him meeting and playing with a group of small children while in the military before showing him decimating the village with his Special Forces group. When war threatens the border between Romania and the Ukraine, a group of men hires him for a secret mission.

McCenzie must lead a band of men to the secret hideout of Colonel Lupo, steal supplies from him, and return those supplies to the revolutionaries who hired him. The only problem is that none of the men on his team know the truth about the mission. The group consists of wealthy businessmen who paid large sums of money to take a fun, extreme vacation into the jungle.

His squad consists of Roman (Sean Bean, “The Hitcher”) who made his fortune in precious metals, a cell phone millionaire named Sam (James Cromwell, “The Artist”), arms dealer Grimaud (Ving Rhames, “Mission Impossible”), and a game designer by the name of Tommy (Dominic Monaghan, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”). The men think that they will have a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, not realizing that everything they experience is real.

While “Soldiers of Fortune” lacks the excitement of a big-budget Hollywood movie, it does have some fun scenes that keep audiences entertained. Director Maxim Korostyshevsky is a relatively newcomer, but he makes it clear that he knows how to direct an action movie. He doesn’t skimp on the action scenes, and sometimes he dives right into the action himself, making viewers feel like they are in the middle of a battle scene. When he gets close to two women battling on the water while riding jet skis, viewers will be on the edge of their seats.

A common flaw with modern action movies is that the directors spend too much time on the back story of the main characters, but that doesn’t happen with this film. The movie opens with shots of McCenzie in Afghanistan, trying to save a fellow officer. Reed (Freddy Rodriguez, “Planet Terror”) is only moments away from losing his life at the hands of a rogue CIA agent. The movie then jumps to the present day, spending little time on the circumstances that forced McCenzie to take this job.

Action movies need more than just blockbuster scenes, which is why “Soldiers of Fortune” introduces some lighthearted moments. The one-liners in the movie are so unforgettable that some viewers might find themselves quoting the film for weeks to come. “The Grim Reaper always gets paid,” said in a deadpan voice, and “Let’s go kill some bad guys” are just some of those memorable lines.

Although the film does have some good moments, it also has its fair share of bad ones. Apart from the main cast, the acting is sub-par at best, and some of the scenes are impossible to believe. The director does an admirable job of creating realistic action and battle scenes, but there is only so much he can do on a limited budget. It sometimes seems like he spent too much of his budget on one scene and had to cut back on the next scene, which draws the viewer out of the film.

Despite a few problems, the movie does have great performances from Christian Slater, Bean, Monaghan, and Cromwell. Cromwell gives his character a realistic Texas accent, and he is believable as a man who might take this type of vacation. Monaghan brings a humorous element to the movie, playing the man who realizes something is wrong but is too busy having fun to do anything about it.

Bean has a history of action movies behind him, which sometimes weakens his character. When he shows disbelief or surprise at the action going on around him, viewers might find it hard to believe. The real standout, though, is Slater. While he has his fair share of straight-to-DVD movies in his background, he gives an excellent performance that might lead some to wonder why he isn’t getting more work.

“Soldiers of Fortune” might sometimes play like a TV or low-budget movie, but it does have its standout moments. While it won’t make any best-of lists, it’s a fun way to spend 94 minutes.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Maverick Approach to Movie Making

The term maverick is used to describe people that are viewed as unconventional and independent, and do not think or behave in the same way as other people. There are many aspiring indie filmmakers out there that take a maverick approach to making movies and end up failing. They waste their talent, time, and money trying to run before they can walk.

Being a maverick filmmaker is cool so long as you understand what it takes to succeed in the movie business. “Know the rules before you break them” is a good saying to remember. You can’t make a name for yourself in the movie business if you do not know how it works. If you’re the type of person that does not listen to sound advice or is a know-it-all, then there is no benefit in continuing reading. If you’re the type of person that is open-minded to new information then this will speak to you.

Some aspiring indie filmmakers are influenced by what they read and hear about famous filmmakers. So and so refused to compromise their creative vision and made the studio back down. That’s how they game is played in Hollywood, but not at the true independent film level. A independent filmmaker that lets their ego control their actions is doomed to fail. The cast and crew on a indie movie are not being paid enough, if they are being paid at all, to deal with a indie filmmaker that is too difficult to work with.

They will either walk off your project or turn in lackluster efforts that will be painfully obvious when you go to edit your movie. Post production never lies. Independent film budgets are tight with no wiggle room for extra shooting days. Many times the seed money to produce a indie movie comes from friends and family of the filmmaker. Not to compromise your creative vision when it’s absolutely necessary to finish the movie is insanity, not to mention selfish. If I personally invested money into a friend or relatives movie I would hope they would control their ego in order to finish the movie.

I’ve always felt making a movie does not give a person the creative license to waste other peoples money. Especially if that money comes from friends and family. I treat investors money as it were my own. Before you shoot your movie it’s a good idea to highlight scenes of your script that are crucial to your creative vision. This is only my opinion, but I have yet to see a movie where every scene is epic. I have yet to talk to another screenwriter that told me that every bit of dialogue and scene they wrote is amazing. Some dialogue and scenes are simply there to keep the story moving. I hang out with an honest bunch of indie filmmakers and we pretty much agree every movie has filler written into it.

It might hurt a unrealistic filmmaker to think that way, but brutal honesty is amazing for the growth of a healthy creative spirit. When you are going through your script highlight filler scenes that are not crucial to your creative vision. Those will be the first scenes to be cut down or removed all together when time and money begin to run out. At the indie movie making level time and money always run out. Be prepared to make changes to your movie and creative vision if push comes to shove. During production of my first feature Consignment I had to rewrite scenes on the spot or the movie would die. I do not feel I compromised my creative vision by making radical changes on the set. I was able to overcome obstacles to finish the movie. Isn’t finishing a movie what it’s all about?

That lead to what I wanted to share with you today, Avoid being a inflexible film snob. Sometimes the situation will demand you adapt your creative vision. Coming in with the attitude that you are flexible will help you deal with things that can kill a movie. Like an actor quitting, a difficult crew member, the loss of a location, or a equipment problem. A lot can go wrong when you are making movie. The more open you are to not to waste energy fighting against what is and finding a fix, the better off you will be as a movie maker.

By no means do you have to be a doormat when making your movie, but you don’t have to be a razor blade either. Blessed is the indie filmmaker that can find and connect with their creative balance. There are a lot of solid life lessons I’ve learned making movies. If you take nothing else from what you’ve read here, take this, “control your ego, do not let your ego control you.” This is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing FADE TO BLACK.

Life Is Like A Movie

Have you ever had an experience in your life, when you thought for sure you were in a movie? Doesn’t it seem like it at times? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew for sure what was coming next? Doesn’t it seem at times that some of the people in your life appear all too familiar? Have you reached that stage yet, when so many people start to look alike to you. They seem to be so familiar, you wonder… “don’t I already know them, even though you know you don’t? Hmmm…well, maybe there are some reasonable answers to these thought provoking questions. Maybe you just haven’t put your finger on them yet.

Perhaps the answers lie in some pretty amazing places, right inside of you! Could it be that maybe, just maybe you have re-incarnated yourself so many times, you might be running out of new scenarios and seemly new people to write into your movie script? Maybe, just maybe, it might be time to consider not rewriting the all too familiar movie scenes and character actors in your script. How about writing something new?

Oh well, you have been in similar roles with your acting group, sometimes the parent, sometimes the child, sometimes the leader and sometime the follower, sometimes the something or other! You already know that! It’s a fact! Well, what if you look at your life now as a fantastic chance and fact finding mission to script, edit, if it starts to look too familiar in a nonproductive way, produce, direct, act and even select your own new cast to join you in your new movie, your new script and your new life. How fabulicious is this!

Start taking the time, to look around you. What is it that you like about your life. What is it that you don’t like? This could be the best time “to get your act together” and start making some positive, upbeat changes. Ask yourself… “If you could change one thing, what would that be?” Write it down and re-right your life. What would you like to see for yourself in the next week, month or year. Write it down and make sure you are not re-writing an old scene from an old movie script that has been over produced.

Maybe, it is time to bring new characters and new blood into your life. Look on your own bright side, you do have one, you know. Life is not always grim and sad. Write all the “rights” into your new movie. Forget about the “wrongs”. Movie on! Get “in charge” of your own production company. Make sure what you are producing is how you want your life to be.

Get a new theme song. Stop singing the old blue tunes! Get in tune and write a song that sings the words of your new movie. Let go of those sad tunes, get rid of those country and western blues song of being “left alone, high and dry”. Get in tune with your life! Get really involved in writing your life from the moment you wake up each day to the moment you fall asleep at night. And if you can’t fall asleep some nights, take it as a perfect occasion to view your new movie. Get creative. Enjoy yourself. And be open to inviting new people, new scenes into your life. And make sure you have lots of popcorn while you are watching your new movie and your new life.

Movie Review – Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity, a “mockumentary” horror film written and directed by Oren Peli, premiered at the Screamfest Film Festival in US on October 14, 2007, and at the Slamdance Film Festival on January 18, 2008. The movie received a limited release in several U.S. cities on October 9, 2009 and had a nationwide release on October 16, 2009.

The ghost story plot of Paranormal Activity is not new to the movie scene. Katie and Micah are a young couple who take the plunge of moving in together. It is not long before they start to experience some paranormal activity in their home. Lights and sinks turn themselves on or off and doors slam with no explanation. Katie then sheds a little light on the situation as she reveals that she has been followed by a ghost ever since she was 8 years old. The couple seek the advice of a psychic and terror begins to unfold.

This set up doesn’t seem any different than a ghost hunting drama that you could flip on at midnight on the sci-fi channel, but the brilliant direction makes it one of the best horror movies of all time by exploiting our inner anxieties about the reality, not the possibility, of haunted spirits. Paranormal Activity triggers fear through the anxiety of committing in a relationship, the panic of a major life change taking a wrong turn, and the familiar yet unexplainable noises or creaks everyone tries to ignore.

As with the popular Blair Witch Project, the selling point is the authentic feel that Paranormal Activity portrays. The spooks and frights aren’t over the top, but they are by no means mundane either. And the ending, holy dammit Christmas, the ending is out of this world. You will go home suspecting every dripping faucet, every cupboard door left open, and every flickering light to be the work of your own personal haunting.

See this movie on the big screen, my little interweb poltergeists. And, if possible, sit between two of the sweetest gay men in the world when you go. I did. And I had the time of my life.