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bjones

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Fury (2014)
2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Superb, 19 October 2014
9/10

The last couple of years have been rough for me. I even asked myself if I should be going to a movie like this at all. But curiosity overwhelmed me. My expectations weren't high, but I had a vague hope that at least the production values looked good from the trailers. I didn't expect more than that.

I have to admit that I liked this film far more than I expected to. It was excellent all around with few sour notes and those are too minor for most people to ever notice.

To begin, the score, art direction, sets, set decoration, makeup, costuming and cinematography were superb. The cinematography was what, in my opinion, really made the look of the film. It took the most barbaric, brutish of subjects and made it visually glorious. It was really beautifully done; definitely Oscar worthy.

The sound and sound effects were excellent throughout; especially difficult in this type of film. Location selection seemed to fit perfectly as well.

That brings me direction and acting. David Ayer directed as well as wrote the script. Perhaps that made the direction part of the effort easier; no arguments with the writers! He's known for some fairly good action films; of which this is now the best.

The primary actors, Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, and Jon Bernthal all had significant screen time. All of them were superb with this material; with Pitt shining the most. His blunt portrayal is spot on to some actual soldiers I've known quite well. Congratulations Mr. Pitt; you deserve some recognition from your peers for this. If you don't get that - which seems unthinkable - you at least have my thanks. I found myself wondering, as I almost never do, where Pitt, LaBeouf and Lerman found within themselves the appropriate and terrific emotions for the job they did. I can't imagine it being easy for them at all; which somewhat adds to the experience of watching them.

The rest of the cast were quite good as well, especially Peña; and Bernthal may actually be somewhat hurt by his excellent portrayal, such was the degree of unpleasantness he elicited.

Two ladies, Anamaria Marinca as Irma and Alicia Von Rittberg as her cousin Emma; were excellent in the small dialog they were given to work with. Both had to convey a great deal through unspoken action and I could almost taste their discomfort and fear. This was especially true of Marinca for me. I couldn't take my eyes off of her when she was on screen; especially in closeup.

For the rest, for me this was so realistic it teetered on the edge of uncomfortable, being too close to some exceedingly unpleasant personal memories; especially with the great sound effects. I especially liked the job they did of bringing the MG42 and Ma Deuce to life. Congratulations for a job well done!

For older ladies in the audience, I can hold this film up as an example of why many veterans do not talk about their experiences. They are too inhumanly ghastly to withstand explanation to those without such experience, and trying to find the words to explain things is just too emotionally draining.

All of this ads up to a great movie going experience. I hope you can enjoy the film. I may have a few nightmares; but I handle those better than I used to.

Great overall, 4 October 2014
8/10

I'd hardly know where to start without giving away spoilers. Even after this long there are those who have not seen the movie ... or read the book. The film does a marvelous job of bringing the book to the screen with its themes and viewpoint intact. For that the filmmakers deserve much praise. The production values were high, the direction tight and on target and the locations, sets and music complimented rather than distracted. It goes without saying that the acting was talented and spot on. To begin, I especially liked Laura Dern. She's always good but I especially enjoyed her here. She reminded me exactly of some of the cancer mothers I've known and she did it with dignity and grace. Thank you Ms. Dern. I can't comment on the part played by Sam Trammel. I can't because his character is me. I should mention that unfortunately, for me, this subject matter was a bit too close to home. Once you've been down this road the world can never look the same again. That has to bring me to Hazel Grace; and the young talent who played her: Shailene Woodely. Ms. Woodley gave beauty, sensitivity, dignity and grace to the most difficult of characters. I could give in to my ceaseless grief and anxiety and say something mean-spirited about her performance because; after all, she's actually healthy and strong and is likely destined for a long, happy and successful life. How could she possibly begin to grasp the gravity of her character and the all-to-real physical pain and mental anguish that her character had to live with every second of her life? But, to her great credit, she pulled it off. At least she did for this film-goer and that's enough of an accomplishment for her young life. I'm glad I didn't have to cut her any slack; she had that line as taunt as it could be. The real question left for this film then, is if they did right by all of the very real Hazel's and Gus' out there. In the final analysis they did as much as could be covered in the short flash of time that is a film. It's perhaps all most audiences could take as well. It was very hard for me to sit through as it was. Had they struck a mark any closer to the source I don't think I could have lasted the film. My own family's experience was far worse than this. My oldest daughter had a brain tumor, the same kind as John Travolta's character in "Phenomenon". I guess that's ironic in some way. The only good thing I can say about that is that she very quickly lost the ability to understand what was happening to her. Another irony is that patients like her were mentioned in the book this film was adapted from. It said, "... Her brain cancer was of the variety that makes you not you before it makes you not alive." That was the sole blessing in it; a perverse kind of mercy. But enough about me. See the movie. It's bound to give something to each one who sees it. If it does, do yourself a favor and read the book. It is better than the film ... all books are.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Excellent film; but ..., 25 August 2014
7/10

I saw this tonight. It was good for the kind of movie it is; a movie about high school sports and their "positive effect" on players as made possible by a great coach.

While this film was very well made, and did illustrate it's point well, it's almost as noticeable for what it doesn't say; or avoids saying altogether. I feel a bit insulted by it, truth be told.

So what's left out? Two very significant facts.

1) The first, and the least important, is the fact that for all the good accomplished by this coach on behalf of his school, the lofty good it does is reserved for a comparatively small number of students. Namely, only for members of the football team. When I was in school (admittedly a very long time ago) the average high school football team was about 33 players. Even if it's a few more, the number is still tiny compared to the whole student body. It leaves me feeling that one cannot get the whole benefit of an education unless one is a very large, athletically talented male.

2) Probably the most significant contributor to the teaching arsenal of the coach is that the school, and therefore their philosophy, is primarily derived from the fact that De La Salle is a Catholic school that places a heavy emphasis on a Christian education after the example of Saint De La Salle. I cannot imagine this school having the success it does absent that philosophy. It went so far as having the strongest statement concerning one of the students who was murdered, stated only in French. The statement being, I believe, that he was a man of faith. That faith was not in football in case you might wonder.

Considering the above, the film's message still has value; albeit in a round about manner. It's still worth seeing; but I sure wish it would inspire someone to come up with a way to teach something this significant for those who aren't able to play football.

Bruce L. Jones

6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing, 11 July 2013
5/10

This movie was certainly different. It is a well made production for sure with a lot of very well staged action. However, the action did get a bit ridiculous and overblown. To compensate for this it seems that Johnny Depp played kind of a clown version of Tonto, in the same way he was a clownish pirate in Pirates of the Carribbean. That's not too surprising considering that some of the people involved with Pirates made this movie. They were obviously trying to duplicate the success of the pirate films. In doing so here they made one huge error. The error was in using such an iconic story without considering that too many people would be disappointed. By contrast, in the pirate films they invented a new icon, so to speak, while it could be said here that they are trying to destroy one.

The rest of the cast did a good job with what they were given. Ruth Wilson played a mildly insipid love interest for the Lobe Ranger and his brother (yes, one of those). The only performance I really liked much was by James Badge Dale who played a Texas Ranger brother to the Lone Ranger. His character felt more real. Barry Pepper played an interesting Custeresque soldier that at least entertained. Traditionally great performances were turned in by Tom Wilkenson and William Fichtner; both villains. But the villains were all so stereotyped it was boring. Much of the rest of the cast just seemed to disappear under endless grime.

Most disappointingly, Armie Hammer played the Lone Ranger part as a Dudly Do-Right of the Mounties kind of thing. I just have never liked actors playing parts that depict what are supposed to be normal men in such a negative way, like stupid and clueless. He was both. It's insulting and demeaning.

As a result of all this the filmmakers delivered something that bears no resemblance to the regular Lone Ranger we all remember. I guess only Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels can be the real ones. The film was more in the way of a spoof of westerns. I usually think of such things as made by pseudo-intellectuals who can't bear to take themselves too seriously and/or who don't want to take any kind of American icon seriously; as though they just can't believe anything good can actually exist. They have to make fun of it, which just shows a complete lack of respect for mainstream Americans. In short, they're insulting their audience.

Almost unforgivably, the overlong final action scene just got boring in its predictability. It's too bad they couldn't come up with something more original than the Keystone Cops. In fact, the entire movie was way too long. They could have easily cut it to about ninety minutes and probably would have had a better film as a result.

In the end, the most enjoyably consistent thing in this jumble are the two young boys who played Danny Reid and Will; played respectively by Bryant Prince and Mason Elston Cook. I also noticed they played their parts straight. They were both good, especially Cook.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Surprisingly Powerful, 5 January 2013
8/10

I had not originally planned on reviewing this film, or seeing it for that matter, it was just a routine night out with friends and I had little input as to the final destination. Sometimes it's just more fun to take a back-seat and enjoy the company of others. It ended with the kind woman sitting next to me trying to unobtrusively stuff tissues into my coat pocket. Saying that much, post movie, I just had to say something about it to someone who wasn't there. It's said that happiness shared is happiness multiplied; but, it's just as true that it's happier still to broadcast your joy to the heights. Having said that much : The total production of the film was bleak and depressing, to say the least, perfectly in keeping with the film's theme. The sets, costumes, makeup, art everything were all top-notch. It also helps to have actually read the novel. If you do you'll have a deeper understanding of the characters, motivations and the significance of the historical setting. Hugo was brutal.

What's left is to find performances by the cast you like. Wow, to start, it's undeniable that Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Russel Crow as Javert, and Eddie Redmayne as Marius were all tremendous. I have to mention Hathaway's performance was very moving. She gave real life and form to one of literature's most wretched characters. Crowe was exceptional as a classic villain cast into that position by life's uglier circumstances. Amanda Seyfried was breathtakingly beautiful as the story's corner post, being - at the same time - Fantine's downfall and Valjean's salvation.

As for the rest ... well ... ... it's hard to put into words really, but Hugh Jackman was nothing short of stunning in the lead; and stunning is too little praise for what I experienced. I had no idea he was such an incredibly talented singer. The film is not really a musical (does anyone else know the difference anymore?), it's a grand opera and Jackman, I think, could hold his own in most operas in the world he's that good. Wow. Amazing. The music had such power and passion it was impossible not to be moved. Now, I have to admit that I might be a touch biased, being a father of a grown, married daughter myself I can totally identify with his performance ... and ... a professional who should know once told me that I reminded her of Valjean in the book. But even with those biases it was still nothing less than a completely magnificent performance. At this point I am left drained and convinced that it was the most powerfully convincing performance I've ever witnessed by a man on film; or any other media for that matter. It even washed away the smarmy, slimy aftertaste from being subjected to Django Unchained the day before.

So, by all means, see Les Miserables. It is an uplifting paean to the soul of humanity and reflects that good can be found anywhere, even in the most unlikely of places. Thanks Hugh.

By Bruce L. Jones

http://webpages.charter.net/bruce.jones1/

Brave (2012)
43 out of 80 people found the following review useful:
A Celtic Tale to the Core, 22 June 2012
9/10

I was lucky enough to see this film in a movie with other paying customers. There was a liberal dose of children in the audience who, from the sounds of happiness during the showing, was proof that it should be a solid hit. Add to that a dreamy-eyed little boy of about 8 who said to me after the film, "I gotta get me a bow and arrow!" That's about as good a testimony as you could get.

I had heard a mention from a source or two - who should remain nameless - that they had trouble with the direction the story went or that it may have been too simplistic. First, I vividly recall people complaining that the story for UP! Was too com0plex, too adult, for a kids movie. But kids liked it anyway. So, they made the story simpler this time and there are complaints from other people. You can't have it both ways. Some people would even complain if they were hanged with a new rope.

What this story does try to do is present a flavor of the Highland Scots in the middle ages. Hollywood being what it is, it's certainly not historically accurate in every detail, but my word, was the animation superb! It was simply magnificent in the depth and complexity. The star, Merida's, hair certainly had center stage a lot. I loved it! Such a riotous bouquet of autumn beauty is hard to find in real life, although I have to say I have a friend of long acquaintance who's hair is EXACTLY like Merida's. My only complaint about that character is with that coloring she screamed with the need for freckles! That would have made her visually perfect to type and character and the absence really disappointed me.

Second, as to the story elements; I feel certain that there are few places on earth with a rich a history of mythical and magical creatures; all of which were taken quite seriously and believed without doubt. The old stories are replete with such tales containing Druids, witches, soothsayers, faeries, brownies, ùruisg, gruagach, little people, silkies, water horses, banshees, Bean-shìdh, kelpies, Blue Kelpies, Seonaidh's, Changelings, Wulvers (a sort of kindly werewolves), Will-o'-the-wisps, Nuckelavees (a quite monstrous elf) and on and on. All of which goes to say that this animated film rests smack in the center of an ancient and rich culture and does it some justice, not in overreaching accuracy, but certainly in underlining the look and feel of the land and the people.

I loved it, my daughter loved it and my grandkids loved it (it didn't hurt that this grouping contains several people with red hair). We loved the look of the people, the costumes, the sets - especially the forested ones and the wonderful voices! Billy Connolly, Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson all did a wonderful job.

Oh, yeah, my 5 year-old grandson wants the girl ... ;) By Bruce L. Jones http://webpages.charter.net/bruce.jones1/

2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Coulda been Disney, 17 June 2012
6/10

Considering that my youngest was a dedicated and superb guitarist at the exact time period the film was set in, and we're in California, I had more than a few expectations for this film going in. By the time the closing credits rolled by I found I was of a divided opinion; some good, some bad. The easiest first, the good:

Good thing number one is Julianne Hough. The only drawback with her is that hard-core rockers will find her too bland, even later in the film when she falls off of her GTS's.

Overall, I thought someone like Emmy Rossum or Anne Hathaway may have been better picks for the part, with their much fuller voices and more candid, adult sexuality.

Hough's leading man is the forgettable, unknown-in-the-mainstream Diego Boneta (born Diego Andrés González Boneta in 1990 in Mexico City, Mexico). I felt inclined to dismiss him as just another pretty-boy used as Latin eye-candy to attract the younger teenaged- girl ticket buyers; ala Ricky Martin.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alex Baldwin and Russell Brand all did yeoman service but nothing to write home about. 

Without doubt, the biggest surprise of the film was Tom Cruise. He managed to look younger thanks to what appeared to be maniacal workouts. But the big fat sprinkle- covered-cookie was his singing. He is credited with the vocals in the sound track credits so I have to believe it was really him singing. Thats right, he was so good I had to check. I'm already annoyed with him for getting to slowly grope both Hough and Akerman. No mortal man should ever be allowed to be that lucky.

Another surprise for me was the talent of the beautiful, Swedish-born Malin Akerman, who is very watchable in this. In one sort-of love scene with Tom Cruise she is startlingly sexy set to music.

Now for some of the downside. It's supposed to be a comic satire - I think. There really wasn't enough good comedy to tell, even with Cruise hamming it up all over the set. The plot, and therefore the film, revolves around a central character, a pretty, young, small town girl from middle America (played by Julianne Hough; a pretty, young, small town girl from middle America) who comes to LA to make her fortune in the music industry; again like Hough. The plot is something right out of the 30's, pulled from the shelf - dusted off - and the names and places changed to protect the innocent. I think the filmmakers didn't notice the too-old-fashioned, paper-thin story. The release info describes the film as a Comedy, Drama, Musical, Romance. They should have picked one, or at most two, and done a better job. As it was, it seemed they were going more for a comedic setting, but missed huge chances to make it a great deal funnier.

The biggest down-side, for me, was the completely ill-advised decision to throttle back what could have been great by going for the kiddie ticket-buyer with a PG-13 rating! To me, the rivers of alcohol present was more off-putting than things that may have made it an R rating. One of the things Heavy Metal was about was a blatant sexuality. That's largely missing here; although Akerman came closer to it than any of the rest in her table top scene with Cruise. I'd have given my left big toe for that to have evolved into a more grown-up scene. Had Akerman peeled a bit further she'd have become a legend. As it is, it'll likely be forgotten. Come to think of it; that's a perk Cruise didn't need. The filmmakers just couldn't drop the hammer.

I know, I know ... it was extracted from a Broadway musical of the same name. So ... that doesn't mean it couldn't have been greatly improved. It was like going to a highly touted action film to find the climactic scene turned out to be a pillow fight between Batman and Spiderman.

As alluring as they were, due to the production decisions eliminating most of what could have been a blast, Hough and Akerman just failed to exemplify the hard-edged, blatant sexuality of the era. After all, boys grew up dreaming of being rock stars, not to play music, but to have access to bundles of not-quite-clad sexy girls. A juicier, more adult, far better script was hiding in there trying to get out, but perhaps a Rossum-like star might have been needed to bring it out in Hough's part and I'd have loved to see Hathaway in Akerman's part; not because they're inherently so much better singers or actresses but because both of those ladies know how to kick down barriers with aplomb.

I tend to think either woman Hough or Akerman, may have been up to the challenge given the chance. As it was both were very chaste in the film, the costuming perhaps a shade more modest than 2010's Burlesque in which Hough also appeared with Christina Aguilera and which also missed the mark.

Both this film and Burlesque suffer a crisis of credibility by completely ignoring what originally made their representative genres so popular: s-e-x and the maximum amount of s-k-i-n. There's nothing in either film that couldn't be seen on any given weekend in a Southern California mall bar the singing.

Well, a guy can dream, right?

7 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
About as real as it can get, 24 February 2012
9/10

This is a concept I've not seen before that I can recall. The film makers eschew real actors in the lead roles and, instead, use a group of real active-duty Navy SEALs as the actors. In considering the difficulty in trying to coax any degree of realism out of actors it was likely easier to use the SEALs and try to teach them to act a little. Up front, I have to say that although none of them will likely win an academy award for their acting, their effort in an unfamiliar landscape was heroic and a good deal better that other attempts we've all seen to use "real" people in film roles (with the possible exception of Audie Murphy). Congratulations gentlemen; it was a job very well done! Having spent nearly 40 years in and around the military, including Special Operations, I think I can speak to it to some degree. Acting aside, for the rest, as a result of the care and guidance of the actual combat vets, the entire suite of action necessities are the best-of-the-best. Uniforms, gear, equipment, dialog and the tactics on display are as likely as real as you'll ever see without enlisting and volunteering for BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training). One thing I especially liked was that this came closer to the sound level of an active weapons environment that most films. The sound accuracy, though not perfect, was better than usual too. There was also the ever-present gasoline-fueled explosions that Hollywood is so fond of, but I guess they had to have their way with some stuff.

The one things that I was surprised to see the film lacked was any sort of a realistic depiction of the more shocking levels of blood and gore present in reality. Maybe it's just as well, there's enough of the other types of realism here to satisfy even the most jaded movie-goer; and enough pathos that I'd advise ladies and more sensitive men to bring some tissues. It is a good thing, though, if people were made aware that compared to real life, the depictions of those things in this film are several orders of magnitude short of reality. The reality these men survive and live with is a good deal worse than what we see here.

The thing that most people will not know or understand is that there are better quality weapons and equipment out there with which to outfit our military, but Congress only buys the cheapest stuff they can find. That is an invisible enemy our people must also face.

Plenty of other people will relate plot details, that's why I many times skip those things. They just become repetitive. So I hope what I've related here will induce a few people to go and see this film. I don't know if anyone outside America will appreciate it, but all Americans should. I have always been very grateful that these men and their actions exist. They help make not just America safe and free, but the whole world. They all deserve our undying thanks.

By Bruce L. Jones - http://webpages.charter.net/bruce.jones1/

Red Tails (2012)
6 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
The sum is better than the parts, 23 January 2012
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Due to the current state of computerized graphics anyone making any kind of a film in today's world is expected to create something visually stunning, many times to the exclusion of almost everything else. The challenge is, therefore, to retain something of additional value in the production. In the case of a film about well known historical facts, it's even more of a challenge, I believe, as there is a feeling that certain historical facts must be portrayed or the film is seen as lacking. It was with those thoughts in mind that I entered the screening of this film. I think the film met with mixed success.

First, in what seemed like an attempt to convey too much information the story suffered in the telling. I tried to like it better but, overall, the story seemed rushed, chopped in places. For the sake of a smoother story, perhaps the film should have been lengthened. I also felt I'd have enjoyed more emphasis on the individual men. We were left knowing little about them and understanding even less. One commonly used vehicle in such films in the past is the introduction of the people they love "back home". We had none of that in this movie, perhaps making them seem less sympathetic. Instead they used a trite subplot about one man's muddled romance with an Italian girl, played by Daniela Ruah as Sofia. Her Italian wasn't very good.

The remainder of the film was chock full of old-fashioned stereotypical characters and their behavior. We were given everything from the extra-religious guy to the self-appointed ladies man to the squadron alcoholic. Some of the actors did better than could be expected with the material at hand. Most notable among those were Cuba Gooding Jr. As Major Emanuelle Stance, Terrence Howard as Colonel A.J. Bullard, Nate Parker as Cpt. Marty 'Easy' Julian, Tristan Wilds as Ray 'Junior' Gannon, Elijah Kelley as Samuel 'Joker' George, Leslie Odom Jr. As Declan 'Winky' Hall and David Oyelowo as Joe 'Lightning' Little. Those actors, and the rest of the cast, gave passable, but not noteworthy performances. Much of the lack of accolades here should be laid at the feet of the Director, Anthony Hemingway.

The best things in the film were the result of the remainder of the crew. The efforts of the art sections were great; including Art Direction, Set Decoration, Costume Design, and Makeup. But it was the Cinematography by John B. Aronson was stunning, although now days it's becoming increasingly difficult to determine where old-fashioned camera work leaves off and CGI begins. The combination in this instance was superb, and all the reason necessary to see the film. The external aerials were among the best I've seen, although the sound could have been more realistic. I especially enjoyed the way the depictions of the Me262 were presented. Those were extremely good.

Otherwise, there were a lot of technical errors surrounding the aircraft, but I suppose they felt they had to make drama somehow given the sparseness of it in the script. The makers also missed the use of the P-47 Thunderbolt before they were assigned the P-51's. The P-47, affectionately known as the Jug, was the heaviest and most expensive single engine fighter and could have given some interesting action ideas. They were next to indestructible. I think one exercise that could have been a good investment is to introduce the sound people to the REAL sound of .50 BMG and 20mm cannon fire tearing through metal at close proximity; likewise the unmuffled. deep throated roar of a 2,000 horse-power V-12 aircraft engine.

In the end, I think the films does far less credit to the Tuskeegee Airmen that it may have. The film makers make it appear as though it was only a dozen-and-a-half guys when in fact there were hundreds of them. Still, the scale is tipped toward seeing it on the big screen.

By Bruce L. Jones - http://webpages.charter.net/bruce.jones1/

War Horse (2011)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Take a young girl, 5 January 2012
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I went in knowing what the film was supposed to be about. From the trailers I expected that the film would be an attractive looking production. I tried to have no other expectations, threw on my suspension of disbelief cloak and just allowed the Steven Spielberg film to play itself out.

I didn't dislike the film but, at the same time, I didn't love it as much as I hoped I would. On the other hand, some of the others I saw the film with - females - appeared to love it. The film is based on a children's book about a horse (name of Joey); which does explain some of it. It's made in a very emotionally obvious way, seeming to actually reach out, straining to pluck your heart-strings from across the room. The characters were flat and one dimensional, in spite of an impressive cast of familiar faces. The characters seemed to be randomly injected into the story at odd intervals in ways to compliment the horse as it grows to maturity and goes off to join the army; and, oh, for the edification of other reviewers, the horse wasn't "conscripted" it was sold into servitude by it's owner to pay for his misdeeds.

The characters ran the gamut from the man who originally buys the horse, Peter Mullan as a hard drinking farmer type named Ted Narracott. In rather predictable fashion he is, of course, too addled and intoxicated to do anything of value with the horse he buys as much to spite David Thewlis (as Lyons) as for any other reason. That leaves an important task for his son to tackle. The son is played by Jeremy Irvine as Albert Narracott in a rather unimpressive way. If it weren't for some of the other actors the film would have been a much bigger disappointment. The list of those positives begins with Emily Watson as Rose Narracott, Mullan's wife and Irvine's mother. She was good, but her role seemed to be the dramatic equivalent of a straight-man, injecting necessary lines of dialog to prop up the story; the characterization of Mullan's alcoholism painted as much by her great performance as his.

Then there is the always watchable Tom Hiddleston as Captain Nicholls, the man who buys the animal into the service. Next came David Kross as Gunther, a German soldier who tries to do good by the horse but ends up in terminal trouble himself. Next was a kindly but bumbling grandfather; ably played the veteran actor Niels Arestrup, who takes a liking to the horse because his adorable granddaughter, played by Celine Buckens as Emilie.

Perhaps the best part of the film was a very impressive scene where the horse escapes from the Nordic side of the battle line but gets himself trapped in the battlefield's no-mans-land. I'll interject at this point that this film is visually stunning, with magnificent work behind the camera by the great Janusz Kaminski.. But he is given a visually rich canvas to witness. The sets and costuming are top notch as is the special effects, so all-important in a war film, and all of that was backed by a great musical score. The production values were so great in those scenes it made me sorry it wasn't a straightforward story involving the first world war.

Dragging the story to a place where it was positioned to get the animal back to the simple-minded Albert felt overly contrived. The one bright spot in that segment was Eddie Marsan as Sgt. Fry. He sealed the return of the horse to it's rightful owner, Albert and there were few dry eyes in the audience.

I was tempted to say it's a "chick flick", but in the end it felt much more like a vehicle aimed at tween girls.

By Bruce L. Jones http://webpages.charter.net/bruce.jones1/


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