The Tillman Story


The Tillman Story

The brothers Tillman (Pat and Kevin) in country.

(2010) Documentary (Weinstein) Pat Tillman, Mary “Dannie” Tillman, Patrick Tillman Sr., Marie Tillman, Richard Tillman, Kevin Tillman, Josh Brolin (narrator), Russell Baer, Phil Kensinger, Stan Goff, Jason Parsons, Bryan O’Neal. Directed by Amir Bar-Lev

 

It has been said that in times of war, the first casualty is the truth. That is just as true today as when it was first spoken.

Most Americans know who Pat Tillman was; a highly paid star for the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL, he left a lucrative career to serve his country as an Army Ranger. He served in Afghanistan only to fall in battle, dead at 27 leaving behind a grieving widow, parents and siblings. The army painted his death as a heroic attempt to save his men during an ambush by the Taliban. At his funeral, the oratory from such personages as Senator John McCain as well as by a parade of army brass bordered on the hysterical in painting a picture of a heroic American who died for a cause he believed in.

But to Dannie Tillman, Pat’s mother, something didn’t smell right. She wanted details about the death of her son and the Army at first was reluctant to provide them. Then, the story changed; it wasn’t a bullet from the Taliban that killed Pat, it was friendly fire – rounds fired by his own fellow soldiers. But how could that happen? What really went on? The more questions Dannie asked, the more frustrating the answers became. The Army finally provided her with the documentation she asked for – 3,000 pages worth, most of it redacted (i.e. heavily censored).

Many women, grieving over their lost sons, would hesitate to read documents detailing the gruesome manner in which their sons died but Dannie persevered. She hired Stan Goff, a former Army investigator and current private detective, to look into the matter. After months and years of being lied to and stonewalled, Pat’s father Patrick Tillman Sr. wrote a scathing and blistering letter which finally prompted a Congressional investigation into the death of Pat Tillman.

What eventually came out was a miasma of cover-ups and an attempt to turn the tragic death of the highest profile soldier in the Army into a propaganda goldmine. Scapegoats were found and those who had the most to do with it – including General Stanley McChrystal  and possibly up to and including then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – got away with it.

Bar-Levi tells the story chronologically, allowing us to discover the extent of the cover-up along with the Tillman family. He wisely allows the facts to speak for themselves and tries not to editorialize much (although the Tillman family does that for him). He is also careful to make the distinction that nobody is criticizing the military as such – just the people who would use the deaths of the soldiers for political gain.

It is easy to get consumed by outrage watching this and as the movie has been out for quite awhile there is no need to be a belated bandwagon-jumper to express my own feelings other than to say “what they said.” As a documentary, this is well-made and just a little bit manipulative; while there can be no justification for what was done, little effort is made to hear opposing sides so be aware of that when watching the film.

Pat Tillman was not a religious man – he has been characterized as an atheist as has his family by detractors which I found profoundly pathetic and a little bit funny in a sad way; I suppose there are those in the military who think the best defense is to go on the attack. It would be nice, however, for the military – even at this late date – to man up and admit what happened and let those who were responsible for lying to the family of a fallen hero be made to answer for their actions.

We all want to believe that our military hold themselves to higher standards. We want to believe that the courageous men and women of the armed forces who put their lives in jeopardy for the sake of the nation have not made that ultimate sacrifice in vain. We want their deaths to mean something. Sadly, there are those who see these human beings as means to an end. That is perhaps the most detestable aspect of this whole senseless affair.

This is a movie that will inflame your passions but at the same time it is advisable to temper that passion with a little bit of forethought; like anything else, there are no absolutes in the military. As it is an institution made up of human beings, there will always be things that happen that are regrettable and even unconscionable. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for the military or their values. It is at times necessary to shine the light on those who misuse their authority. Perhaps the real legacy of Pat Tillman is to remind us that it is at all times necessary for us not to accept things at face value and that the test of a truly free people is the ability to pursue the truth, no matter how painful it might be.

WHY RENT THIS: The movie has a real sense of fun and looks at a less glamorous side of the business. Hanks and Malkovich make a good team.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The movie takes it’s time which may not sit well with audiences used to much faster-paced comedies.

FAMILY VALUES: There are a few bad words scattered about.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Buck is depicted as appearing on MTV’s TRL show, which had been canceled between the time the movie was filmed and when it was released.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $802,535 on an unreported production budget; it’s possible that the movie made a little bit of money.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Friendly Fire

FINAL RATING: 7/10

NEXT: In Her Skin

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New Releases for the Week of October 22, 2010


Hereafter
Matt Damon peers out the window, afraid he is still being stalked by Ben Affleck.

HEREAFTER

(Warner Brothers) Matt Damon, Cecilie de France, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Kind, Steven R. Schirripa. Directed by Clint Eastwood

The lives of three people in three different places on Earth are touched by death in different ways; a blue collar American is able to communicate with the dead but finds this less a gift and more of a curse. A French journalist has a near-death experience in a tsunami, shaking her to the very core of her being. Finally a young London boy loses his twin brother and searches for answers. Their lives will eventually intersect as they embark on a path to search for the truth of what they believe awaits in the hereafter.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Supernatural Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language)

Anton Chekhov’s The Duel

(Highline) Andrew Scott, Fiona Glascott, Tobias Menzies, Nicholas Rowe. A ne’er do well in a Russian village begins an illicit affair with a married woman, but when they plan for her to leave her husband for her paramour, his true nature begins to emerge in this well-reviewed version of a classic tale by the Russian author.

The trailer for this movie is unavailable.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: NR

I’m Still Here

(Magnolia) Joaquin Phoenix, Sean Combs. Actor Joaquin Phoenix shocked Hollywood in the fall of 2008 by announcing that he was retiring from his acting career and instead, becoming a hip-hop artist. Oscar-nominated actor Casey Affleck was behind the camera documenting this “career reinvention” that would later turn out to be a hoax. Still, the film that came out of it has gotten a good deal of buzz as a look at life in the public eye and the odd worship of celebrity that creates an environment that allows celebrities to do whatever they please.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Mockumentary

Rating: R (for graphic nudity, sexual material, pervasive language, some drug use and crude content)

Lebanon

(Sony Classics) Yoav Donat, Michael Moshonov, Zohar Shtrauss, Dudu Tassa. During the First Lebanon War of 1982, a lone Israeli tank and a platoon of paratroopers are sent to a hostile town for a simple mission that turns into a nightmare of survival as the soldiers, motivated by fear and instinct, try not to lose the best part of themselves in a situation that demands their worst.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: War Drama

Rating: R (for disturbing bloody war violence, language including sexual references and some nudity)

Paranormal Activity 2

(Paramount) Katie Featherston, Gabriel Johnson. Further supernatural goings-on are captured in a house via security cameras, this time affecting a different family in the sequel to the smash hit horror movie that was made for only $15,000 – I’m assuming the sequel cost them a bit more to make.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Rating: R (for some language and brief violent material)

Stone

(Overture) Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich, Frances Conroy. A man imprisoned for covering up the murder of his grandparents with a fire is up for early parole, and that decision rests in the hands of a parole officer approaching retirement age. In order to up his odds, the prisoner sends his sexy, amoral wife to help convince the parole officer to set him free.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for strong sexuality and violence, and pervasive language)

The Tillman Story

(Weinstein) Pat Tillman, Dannie Tillman, Richard Tillman. When pro football star Pat Tillman gave up his lucrative career to fight for his country in Afghanistan, that was big news. When he gave his life for his country, that was even bigger news. The real story is his family’s fight to find out the truth behind his death, and the government’s equal determination to cover up that truth.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: R (for language)

Waiting for “Superman”

(Paramount Vantage) George Reeves, Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee, Randi Weingarten. Oscar-winning documentarian Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) focuses his lens on the American public education system. Once the best in the world, it has become a morass of drop-out factories and bureaucratic bungling that inhibits rather than promotes academic excellence. However, there is still some hope as good teachers and innovative administrators are creating a new educational system with programs in charter schools and other enlightened academic institutions that may eventually deliver on the promise of leaving no child behind.

See the trailer, clips and an interview here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: PG (for some thematic material, mild language and incidental smoking)

Four-Warned: August 2010


Four-Warned: August 2010

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief explanation

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE 

1. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (1.5)
2. THE EXPENDABLES (2.4)
3. NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS (2.5)
4. THE OTHER GUYS (2.7)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE) 

1. LEBANON (1.9)
TIE. TALES FROM EARTHSEA (1.9)
3. THE TILLMAN STORY (2.2)
4. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED (2.4)

TIE. THE WILDEST DREAM: THE CONQUEST OF EVEREST (2.4)
 

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

AUGUST 4, 2010

SICILIAN GIRL (Music Box) Genre: Crime Drama. The true story of a 17-year-old Sicilian girl who broke the Sicilian code of silence by testifying against the Mafia. Release Strategy: New York Only. RATING: 3.0 Sounds like a powerful drama; hope I can see a trailer for this soon.

AUGUST 6, 2010

CAIRO TIME (IFC) Genre: Romantic Drama. A 40-something fashion editor is assigned to Cairo and finds that the exotic city awakens strong feelings in her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A Harlequin romance for the indie film set?
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED (Anchor Bay) Genre: British Crime Thriller. A young heiress is kidnapped and held for ransom by two ex-cons, but she doesn’t intend to be used as a pawn. Release Strategy: New York/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.4 This looks to be the sleeper suspense movie of the summer.
FLIPPED (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Boy meets girl in grade school. Girl thinks its love, boy thinks she has cooties. Boy and girl grow up. Stuff happens. Release Strategy: Limited (Opening wide on Aug. 27). RATING: 3.0 Could be a really sweet coming-of-age story despite my smart-assed summary.
LEBANON (Sony Classics) Genre: War Drama. An Israeli tank crew gets caught up in a life-or-death situation during the first Lebanese War of 1982. Release Strategy: New York (Opening in Los Angeles on Aug. 13). RATING: 1.9 Could very well be Das Boot for tanks.
MIDDLE MEN (Paramount Vantage) Genre: Comedy. An entrepreneur gets involved with Internet porn and makes a fortune but turns his life upside down. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 These “based on a true story” Internet tales are coming thick and fast.
THE OTHER GUYS (Columbia) Genre: Action Comedy. Two deskbound NYPD detectives are called upon to support the department’s reigning supercops. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 Anything that reunites Talladega Nights director Adam McKay with Will Ferrell is aces in my book.
THE OXFORD MURDERS (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. A professor of logic and one of his students races against time to solve a string of murders. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 John Hurt is one of my favorite actors so this is a slam dunk for me.
STEP UP 3D (Touchstone) Genre: Urban Drama. A tight-knit break dancing team from the Bronx enters a global competition. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 Not a single thing about this movie appeals to me, but then again I’m as far from their demographic as you can get.
THRU THE MOEBIUS STRIP
(Hannover House) Genre: Sci-Fi Animated Feature. Age-old enemies must learn to work together against a common enemy to save their humans. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Supposedly based on the works of Heavy Metal artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud, who I must admit I admire a great deal.
TWELVE
 (Hannover House) Genre: Gritty Urban Drama. A drug dealer on the decadent Upper East Side sees his life turned upside down when his cousin is arrested for murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 An impressive cast but the trailer held no magic for me.
THE WILDEST DREAM: CONQUEST OF EVEREST (National Geographic) Genre: Documentary. A young British mountaineer attempts to re-create George Mallory’s ill-fated 1924 climb to see if it’s possible that he might have summated Mt. Everest before perishing. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 I love these types of documentaries; nobody does ‘em like NatGeo.

AUGUST 13, 2010

ANIMAL KINGDOM (Sony Classics) Genre: Aussie Crime Drama. A young boy is brought into a notorious Melbourne crime family after his mother dies. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 This has been getting all sorts of accolades worldwide; might be the real thing.
EAT PRAY LOVE (Columbia) Genre: Dramedy. A married woman chucks her marriage, her house and her life in order to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Despite the presence of Julia Roberts as the lead, I’m thinking this is an ode to self-worship.
THE EXPENDABLES (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A team of mercenaries finds themselves fighting for their lives after a job goes horribly wrong, and may end up having to do the right thing in spite of themselves. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Nearly every notable action star of the last 20 years is in this; either it’ll be classic or a real mess.
LA SOGA (7-57 Releasing) Genre: Action Thriller. A sensitive young boy witnesses the brutal murder of his family by a Dominican drug lord; he is eventually transformed into an amoral assassin for the Dominican Secret Police. Release Strategy: New York Only. RATING: 3.1 Haven’t yet seen a trailer for this, but the concept is intriguing, sort of a Latin La Femme Nikita.
SALT OF THE SEA (Lorber) Genre: Romantic Drama. A Brooklyn-born woman of Palestinian descent returns to her homeland to claim what’s hers. Release Strategy: New York Only. RATING: 3.3 This could pique my interest, but again I haven’t seen a trailer for this one either.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (Universal) Genre: Trendy Comic Book Action Mash-Up. A young dweeb who plays in a band falls hard for a much cooler girl than he deserves and is forced to fight her seven evil ex-boyfriends for the right to woo her. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 My son Jacob has an absolute chubby for this movie, which means that seeing it might make me hipper or merely depress me over the state of modern youth culture.
TALES FROM EARTHSEA (Disney) Genre: Fantasy Anime. A young ambitious wizard must right the wrongs he loosed on the world through his own recklessness. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The latest from Studio Ghibli and the first from Goro Miyazaki, the son of the legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki; also based on the beloved fantasy novel by Ursula K. LeGuin.

AUGUST 18, 2010

VAMPIRES SUCK (20th Century Fox) Genre: Horror Spoof. A young human girl must choose between competing boyfriends – who happen to be vampires. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 I agree that the Twilight saga richly deserves a spoofing but lately these types of movies have been majorly craptacular and at worst, unwatchable.

AUGUST 20, 2010

DOWN TERRACE (Magnet) Genre: Dark Comedy. A father and son struggle to keep a crime family together even while an informant in their midst threatens to tear it apart. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Sounds a bit like “The Sopranos” on Ritalin.
LOTTERY TICKET (Warner Brothers) Genre: Urban Comedy. A winning lottery ticket puts a quiet neighborhood into an uproar. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.8 Sorry, the trailer looked kinda awful.
MAO’S LAST DANCER (Goldwyn) Genre: Biography. The story of international ballet star Li Cunxin who overcame tremendous odds to realize his dream. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 I’m not usually a big fan of movies about dancing but the trailer for this one looked very good.
NANCY MCPHEE RETURNS (Universal) Genre: Family. The magical nanny comes to rescue a family whose father is off at war. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 I actually liked the first film very much, so interested in seeing what they do with the second.
PIRANHA 3D (Dimension) Genre: Horror. Mutant flesh-eating fish take over a Spring Break hangout and prepare to munch on a co-ed buffet. Release Strategy: Wide (3D). RATING: 2.9 The original wasn’t John Sayles’ finest hour; did we really need a remake of it?
THE SWITCH (Miramax) Genre: Comedy. A neurotic man switches the donated sperm for his best friend’s baby with his own. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The trailer made this look like 90 minutes of awkward.
THE TILLMAN STORY (Weinstein) Genre: Documentary. The story of the pro football star that gave up the NFL to serve his country and would later be killed by friendly fire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 This could well be the Best Documentary Feature Oscar winner.
WHAT IF… (Jenkins Entertainment) Genre: Christian Drama. A man who gave up the cloth and his high school sweetheart for a business career gets to see what his life would have been like if he’d chosen differently. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Sort of like It’s A Wonderful Life for the God squad.

AUGUST 27, 2010

CENTURION (Magnet) Genre: Swords and Sandals. A Roman legion charged with wiping out the savage and terrifying Picts find themselves battling for their own survival behind enemy lines. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks like a cross between Gladiator and Last of the Mohicans.
CHANGE OF PLANS (IFC) Genre: Indie Drama. A group of ten friends gather for a summertime dinner party, where their personal issues begin to surface. Release Strategy: New York Only. RATING: 3.3 Yet another look at the failing relationships of a group of 20-somethings.
GOING THE DISTANCE (New Line) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A couple fall madly in love, then have to continue their relationship via long-distance. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 An attractive young couple (Drew Barrymore and Justin Long) make this appealing.
THE LAST EXORCISM (Lionsgate) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A priest agrees to document his last exorcism, with unexpected results. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Looks like a real good frightfest.
THE MILK OF SORROW (Olive Films) Genre: Indie Drama. A woman is severely affected by the psychological effects of a war on terror in Peru. Release Strategy: New York (Opening in Los Angeles Sept. 3). RATING: 3.3 Not for the squeamish or the sensitive.
TAKERS (Screen Gems) Genre: Action. A group of high-tech bank robbers try to stay one step of the cops as they pull off their biggest heist yet. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The trailer didn’t excite me any.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES

The Other Guys, Middle Men, Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Nanny McPhee Returns, Going the Distance