Reel Critics: 'Survivor' pays tribute to brave

"Lone Survivor" is a brutally honest depiction of ground combat in the 21st century. It provides an unflinching look at the gritty reality facing our finest soldiers in the merciless badlands of Afghanistan. It should be required viewing for every member of Congress and the executive branch of our government.

An American war movie like no other, it relays the unvarnished truth of a real-life Navy Seal operation gone bad. Mark Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell, the only member of the team to survive Operation Red Wings in 2005. The outcome of the mission is obvious in the title. But the bravery and fortitude of all the men involved is a revelation of human endurance and commitment.

The chaos and horror of small-unit warfare has never been more forcefully presented. The violence is intense, but so is the unwavering courage and commitment of the men in the line of fire.

Director Peter Berg has created a somber tribute to the very bravest among us. But the final result of their unquestioned honor and sacrifice is a disturbing wake-up call for all of us.

—John Depko


Taking 'fun' out of dysfunctional

The movie version of "August: Osage County" was highly anticipated. What a cast! Sam Shepard, Julia Roberts, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch and, of course, the illustrious Meryl Streep portray family members engaged in bitter verbal warfare.

This is a Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner. But as entertainment, it left me feeling anxious and exhausted. There's just too much scenery-chewing to make this dysfunctional family palatable. It makes "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" tame by comparison.

A family crisis reunites the members of the Weston family in Oklahoma, headed by the brittle, drug- and cancer-addled Violet (Streep). She and oldest daughter Barbara (Roberts) relish pushing each other's buttons, and Violet's sister Mattie Fae (Martindale) is no saint either. So many secrets, so many tortured souls, so many hopeful for an acting award.

This is a thespian's dream. The actors face off and try to outdo each other. Nobody gets close to Streep, who's like a gladiator, cutting down all in her path. But you get so caught up in watching her that everything else becomes secondary. Roberts comes close, but the best she can manage most of the time is to clench her jaw and smile.

One can appreciate the talent that makes up "August: Osage County," but it's very difficult to endure the two hours-plus of such misery. I'm all for black humor, but there's not much heart.

—Susanne Perez

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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