(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)There were a handful of forgettable war-related films released in 1999: The General’s Daughter, All The King’s Men, the Robin Williams-starrer Jakob The Liar. And then there was Three Kings (Certified Fresh at 94%), part action comedy, part heist movie, and 20 years later, still holding up as one of the best and most subversive war films ever made.Directed with adrenalized panache by David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), Three Kings followed on the heels of Steven Spielberg’s heroic 1998 WWII epic Saving Private Ryan, which canonized the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation. But Russell had no such patriotic flag to wave. Like Catch-22, Three Kings satirically probes the insanities of war; like Apocalypse Now, it revels in surreal set pieces and sharp visual juxtapositions; like M*A*S*H, it mixes black humor with moral complexity.Its heroes are reluctant ones, soldiers who start out consumed by their own self-interest until forced by untenable circumstances to take a moral stand.IT HAS A KILLER VISUAL LOOKInspired by color photos of the war that appeared in newspapers at the time, Russell and his cinematographer, Newton Thomas Siegel, devised a saturated, blown-out look for the Iraqi desert (actually Arizona) in the film. They increased the contrast and graininess and bypassed the bleaching stage of the film process, giving the desert landscape a foreboding, surreal look, which set the visual template for other films about contemporary wars that followed. The Iraqi village was designed by production designer Catherine Hardwicke, who served the same role on films like Tombstone and Tank Girl and would go on to direct the first Twilight and Lords Of Dogtown.IT MAKES ASTUTE POLITICAL POINTS WITHOUT BEING PREACHY(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)Russell exposes the hypocrisy of American foreign policy in the Middle East and indicts the Bush Administration for its abandonment of anti-Saddam insurgents – whom the U.S. had encouraged to rise up against the Iraqi dictator – all without pedantic speeches or heavy-handed scenes. The soldiers who steal back the Kuwaiti gold from Saddam – George Clooney, Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg, and Being John Malkovich director Spike Jonze – spend the latter part of the film, at great risk to themselves, helping a group of insurgents reach the Iranian border, foreshadowing the refugee crisis of future wars to come.IT HAS THE MOTHER OF ALL INTERROGATION SCENESWhat’s a good war movie without at least one hard-to-watch interrogation scene? Most of these scenes tend to follow a simple formula: someone, usually a soldier, is captured behind enemy lines and tortured for information. But the scene between Moroccan actor Saïd Taghmaoui as an Iraqi army officer and Mark Wahlberg as the captured American soldier gets up close and personal in a way few of these scenes manage to.While the Iraqi does torture Wahlberg s character with electric shocks, he’s no faceless sadist; our sympathies are engaged when we learn he’s lost his young son and daughter to American bombing raids. But the capper comes when Taghmaoui forces oil down Wahlberg’s throat, a searing indictment on what many felt was the real point of America’s intervention in Kuwait: to protect its oil reserves in the Middle East.IT’S THE FIRST WAR FILM TO SHOW GRAPHICALLY WHAT A BULLET CAN DO TO THE HUMAN BODYRussell was concerned about viewers being anesthetized to gun violence; his answer was to give the audience the uniquely visceral experience of how a bullet traumatizes the human body. In the scene, Clooney lectures his men: What makes any gunshot wound bad, provided you survive the bullet, is something called sepsis. Say a bullet tears into you right now. It creates a cavity of dead tissue, the cavity fills up with bile and bacteria, and you’re f ed. As the soldiers listen, the camera tracks a bullet as it smashes into the body, tearing through flesh and filling the organs with bile.While doing press for the film, Russell grew so irritated with a reporter’s questions that he made up a story about how the bullet scene was done using a real corpse. Needless to say, the studio did not find it funny.IT TRANSFORMED GEORGE CLOONEY’S CAREERIn 1999, Clooney was still playing a doctor on NBC’s hit TV show E.R. After the disappointment of 1997 s Batman Robin (11% on the Tomatometer), he was desperate for meatier roles in prestige projects. In particular, he wanted the role of Three Kings’ disillusioned Special Forces Major Archie Gate (it didn’t hurt that Warner Bros., who produced Three Kings, also produced E.R.), but his relationship with Russell was volatile from the start. The weather on set in Arizona was hot, and the shoot proved to be chaotic. Clooney would often show up on set only to find that Russell had completely rewritten his scenes. As recounted on Slate.com, the two famously came to blows after Clooney objected to Russell physically manhandling an extra on the set.Nevertheless, the film helped to cement Clooney as a leading man, as he jumped to starring roles in The Perfect Storm and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Late in Three Kings, after Jonze is killed and Wahlberg is wounded by a sniper, he even gets an E.R. moment, placing a flutter valve in Wahlberg’s chest to allow air to escape from a punctured lung.Three Kings opened on October 1, 1999.Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.
Often in comics, one miniseries or event title leads directly into another comic book series with little or no downtime. And while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier does not intend to pick up any of WandaVision s batons — in fact, it was originally scheduled to bow first — debuting two weeks after that other show s finale offers viewers a little bit of the thrill of picking up the first issue of a follow-up story. That sensation changes as soon as the first episode truly begins and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) reveals a part of what he s been up to for the last few months: fighting dudes like Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) for the U.S. government.So let s catch up with him, James Buchanan Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole as we dive into the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.Spoiler alert: The following reveals details of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 1, New World Order. Stop here if you have not watched the episode.The Timing Matters(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios)As we go further into Phase 4, the end of Avengers: Endgame becomes an important marker of time. WandaVision takes place mere weeks after the Avengers restored roughly 3 billion people to life. Spider-Man: Far From Home occurs the next summer. Black Widow, as it happens, will apparently occur six years prior to Endgame. And the first Falcon episode establishes that some months have gone by.It appears that distance from everyone coming home will be an important plot point. The economic instability suggested in Wanda s (Elizabeth Olsen) first trip to Westview continues to matter and even seems to be contributing to an as-yet-unspecified political upheaval. To be sure, Sam s difficulty in securing a loan is a mostly separate issue — more on that in a moment — but the tense situation Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and a few other government types keep dancing around seems connected to the sudden (and we assume occasionally fatal) return of everyone who was lost when Thanos first snapped his fingers in Avengers: Infinity War.In terms of those whispered economics, we imagine insurance companies went right to work trying to reclaim any death benefits they paid out in the previous five years. The returned also probably expected to go back to work at jobs that either evaporated or found new hires to fill the vacancies. Of course, there s the individual psychological toll to consider, but the instability people keep telling Sam about is the aggregate of those things and is typically expressed in terms of financial and political unrest. And in this episode, we re only seeing the edges of that picture.Nevertheless, the timing still matters as Far From Home presents a world — or at least certain European cities and New York — more or less recovered. Whatever powder keg the generals at Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) memorial expected to explode in the short term sure hasn t a handful of months later.Or, perhaps, Sam and Bucky were instrumental in preventing it from happening.When Even an Avenger Can t Get a Loan(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios )One interesting element of the episode is seeing just how accustomed Sam became to the privileges of being an Avenger. To be fair, he lost them as soon as he and Steve defied the Sokovia Accords in 2017, but his expectation that his status as a world-saving superhero would make his loan application a breeze is a bit naive. Nevertheless, it is an interesting way for Marvel Studios as a whole to broach a topic like systemic racism.Each dimension of the scene is fascinating to examine, in fact. Beyond Sam s seeming overconfidence, you have the loan officer unsure of Sam s identity (ouch) and his inability to approve the loan because of the bank s rules, which are built against people like Sam and his sister, Sarah (Adepero Oduye). Then you have her understanding that this was the only way their visit to the bank could transpire — a reality Sam has seemingly forgotten thanks to years in the service and his time in a much more egalitarian organization. Then there is that question: was he receiving income from Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) during the time he worked out of the Avengers HQ? And is his current government contracting something he can claim on the application?We ll also step back a bit and note the bank appears to be offering no sort of amnesty for those who were Blipped. Their five years without jobs or income stands against them. Although, we imagine the bank bends that rules in certain situations.But no matter the reasons for Sam and Sarah to walk out of there defeated — or however an individual viewer may regard the scene — it indicates a growing maturity for the Marvel method while feeling like a natural extension of the Captain America film series philosophy. Now, it s finally pointed to a contemporary situation.Bucky Got a Haircut, Found a Date, and Can t Deal With His Guilt(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios )This might be kind of shallow, but we re very glad to see Bucky finally did away with his grungy Winter Soldier hair. Yes, there s definitely a psychological advantage to doing so — he can look in the mirror and not see the monster who haunts his nightmares— but on a purely aesthetic level, Bucky is a much more handsome man with a closer-cropped do.We imagine it is something his therapist encouraged him to do, but it s also possible he chose to do it all on his own in the hopes of reclaiming some part of the man he was before he went to the war. The visual similarity to the dashing lad who showed Jenna Coleman around that science expo in Captain American: The First Avenger is striking. But there is also the sharp contrast of this shattered old man hidden just under Bucky s relatively youthful appearance.Although, we ll admit, it is easier to see that 106-year-old man when he and Yori (Ken Takemoto) go to lunch. It is interesting that these scenes (and his therapy session before them) are the first time we ve really seen Bucky try to cope with everything. Sure, he had that period in Wakanda, but note the way that s minimized in this episode. Those handful of scenes in Black Panther and Infinity War are not about a solider and conscripted killer processing 70 years of trauma. And, really, they couldn t be. Now, though, both we and Bucky have the chance to explore it.(Photo by Marvel Studios)Which makes the date Yori gets for him and his guilt-induced nightmare all the more fascinating. In regards to the former, it make for a fascinating contrast with the cocksure kid in The First Avenger. He absolutely fumbles at every turn and she carries that date until he walks out.But, really, Bucky s in no place to date. He has to finish making amends. At the very least, it would resolve his nightmare. But telling Yori the truth may be the hardest thing he will have to do to complete the task. Sure, Yori may think he wants to know that truth, but what will happen when he finds out this man he s befriended is his son s killer? Bucky has a real ease with him — to the point where the first scene at Izzy s plays as though Yori knows Bucky s real identity — and to lose that bond would be a real setback even if the truth is, ultimately, more important.It s a different sort of jeopardy for the Winter Soldier to experience, but it reflects the sort of show Falcon wants to be. We just hope Bucky gets some sport of peace by the time we get to the end of it.The Portents of Trouble(Photo by Marvel Studios)Curiously, though, the first episode resists the temptation to feature Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) or reveal any aspects of his plan. Although, it s pretty easy to imagine the Flag Smashers as a nascent Masters of Evil. That group, formed by Zemo s father in early issues of The Avengers comic book, will never use that name in the MCU. But it will be interesting to see if The Falcon and the Winter Soldier attempts to employ one of their better known lineups under a different moniker. As it happens, Flag-Smasher is a singular villain in the pages of Marvel Comics and Erin Kellyman briefly appears in the episode as a female version of that character.Of course, because we re assuming a lot this week, we imagine the Flag Smashers are tied to Zemo. But what if they re not? Their aims may be there own while he stays true to his plans as a lone operative.To a certain extent, Zemo is the most successful MCU villain. He tore the Avengers in half, and although they did reform, they are no longer the imperial force he saw when Sokovia fell. But considering the views we ve heard him espouse in trailers, moving his brilliance to ending superheroes entirely could lead to a number of broken costumed folk.Then there s that counterfeit Captain America (Wyatt Russell). Fans of the comics will recognize U.S. Agent on the spot, but we ll hold off on examining him and his comic book counterpart until next week when, presumably, we ll know more about his status in the MCU and what he does to inspire Sam s desire to retake the shield.But for all these uncertainties, at least Sam and Bucky will have allies in the coming fight thanks to people like Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and First Lieutenant Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez), a kid in the army who may have a fascinating destiny as the series wears on.The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres new episodes on Fridays on Disney+.
Why would we do something so cruel as pit two of the nicest guys in Hollywood – and real-life besties – against each other? Because that’s kinda the whole idea of this show! And so it is that one-time scrappy up-and-comers and nowadays A-list superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck must face off, Batman-vs-Superman style, to the death. Well, until Vs. host Mark Ellis declares one the victor, at least. In this episode, the two actors duke it out over five categories – box office performance, Tomatometer and Audience Scores, most iconic moments, best characters, and a wild card round – before Ellis decides which of these apples he most likes. Will it be the man who refused to let a little thing like his Daredevil flop stop him from re-entering the superhero genre? Or the guy who gave us a new kind of super-spy in Jason Bourne… and said yes to Downsizing? Tune in to find out.On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.
Irish actor Andrew Scott is arguably most recognizable to U.S. audiences for malevolent characters: classic literary villain Professor Moriarty opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in TV s Sherlock, as cruel psychiatrist Dr. Addison Bennet in Alice Through the Looking Glass, and as duplicitous government agent C in James Bond film Spectre.So seeing Scott turn up as a priest in Amazon series Fleabag understandably may result in immediate suspicion of the character. The series history of revealing unexpected core character flaws might also set viewers expectation levels to yellow ― exercise caution ― when it comes to investing in this new player on Fleabag s scene. Plus: Fleabag. It s original and audacious storytelling, Scott says of the series created and written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a star rapidly ascending with a scene-stealing turn as the voice of robot L3-37 in Solo: A Star Wars Story and as executive producer and creator of award-winning BBC America series Killing Eve. Waller-Bridge was also tapped by Bond himself, Daniel Craig, to inject her distinctive comedic voice into the script of the upcoming film from director Cary Fukunaga.Scott this week also appeared — ranting with a gun — in the first trailer for season 5 of Netflix sci-fi anthology hit Black Mirror. We re eager to find out what delirium awaits us there, but in the meantime, we re savoring his performance in Fleabag season 2, which is reliably unexpected.The season is Certified Fresh at 100% with 43 reviews at publication and is being lauded by critics with lines like: A portrait of grief, fear, and love that s startling, painful, achingly funny, unbearably sexy, pretty much perfect, and somehow better than the first season. It is a marvel. It should not exist. (Allison Shoemaker, RogerEbert.com).We spoke to Scott about these strange, beautiful, tragic, hilarious sketches of humanity and what it was like to inhabit one of them.(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)Debbie Day for Rotten Tomatoes: Throughout the season, as a viewer, I think you keep asking yourself, “Is this love or is this insanity?”Scott: I think both those things can exist at the same time. (Laughs). I think a lot of the time, people s experiences of love are exactly that. I think that question, “Is this love or is this insanity?,” can nearly be applied to everything or relationship, because it is insane to go through that experience — it s insane. That s exactly it. As the Priest says in that sermon (in the series): It s this extraordinary thing, it makes you crazy, and makes you do all these things that you never imagined you would be, both good and bad. I think Phoebe s great talent is to be able to hold two things in exactly the same thing. I love the fact that it s funny and tragic at the same time. I like that the idea of being vulnerable and being powerful exists in the same scene. It s all the things it s very fluid, and I think that s why people have responded to it so much, that s what makes such great television, is that feeling of nuance, because the lack of nuance is the death of great art.(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)After season 1, I think viewers are hoping for some redemption for Fleabag, and at the beginning of the new season, here s this priest and ― whether you believe or not ― you may hope that she finds something to hold on to, but she chooses the same sort of destructive path.Scott: You think it s destructive?I think she makes another bad choice for herself. You want to believe in love, and you want to believe that people will choose love, but when you get involved with someone who s not really available ―Scott: Yeah.(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)How did you approach your character, seeing this dynamic in the scripts? What did you think of him at first when you read it?Scott: We talked about, when we first spoke about this relationship between the two of them, was how do you play love, and what should we expect from our television characters? And there s not one of us who have not made bad choices ― I e