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Flight of the Phoenix (2004)
If you need a lift after watching "Ladder 49", check this out!
If you need a lift after watching the excellent yet rip your heart out epic "Ladder 49", check this out! It's a better remake than even 2003's "The In-Laws", because not only is it more upbeat and hip, the new cast of characters in this remake avoids the pitfall of the annoying obnoxiousness that sinks some of the characters in the "In Laws" remake (chiefly the friends of the bride. Ack!) Yes, Dennis Quaid might not be Jimmy Stewart, but he is more than capable as an actor, and the way this remake is scripted makes him perfect for the role Jimmy played, Captain Frank Towns, since Towns is a tougher guy in this version than in the original. Ditto the rest of the cast, especially good IL' Giovanni Ribisi as the plane designer. It is more action/adventure oriented than the original, which was more a character study in a hostile environment, which is a good change, considering the current taste for action/adventure that propelled flicks like the last two "Matrix" movies to beau coup dollars-ville. At the same time, the characters are likable and sketched out enough that we like and root for them. Most memorable moment in this "Flight": the climax! Man, what a RUSH... All in all, if you rent "Ladder 49", be sure to pick this up too and watch it after "49" to perk yourself up. Heck, pick this flick up anyway. IT ROCKS!
Gods and Generals (2003)
This is NOT Trent Lott's Civil War! Or: hush up, critics.
I was very angered by the needless bad press this movie recieved. It seems that reviews these days laud bad movies and bash good movies more often than not. Such was -alas- the case with "Gods And Generals". "Trent Lott's Civil War" was a popular bad name that this classic was called. I take deep umbridge to that. Trent Lott is a big loud mouth racist baby. Ronald F. Maxwell is none of these, and his film is not racist in any way, shape, or form. In fact, if one only would listen to the DVD's commentary, Maxwell flatly states that the story of slavery should be told on screen, but that it was not the focus or purpose of G&G to tell it as G&G's story was different. As for the two slaves who are in the movie, they are not sterotypes. Jim and Martha were real people, just like you or I, and their experiences as slaves were each different, as can be with any experience in ones life. Slavery was evil, no doubt about it, but exploring it is -again- a whole story unto itself worthy of a drama unto itself (as dramas like "Roots" have shown.) The primary focus of Jeff Shaara's novel was on Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, the legendary Southern general. Thus the movie follows the book in his being the lead character, with his chief, Robert E. Lee, and Union hero Joshua L. Chamberlian also touched upon, for they too were dominant in the book. Jim Lewis, Martha, Jackson's wife Anna, Chamblerian's wife Fannie, and Union General Winfield Scott Hancock round off the main character list. While it is too bad that the reenactment of the battle of Antietam could not make the theatrical cut due to time constraints, the theatrical version has grown on me to the point where I like it just the way it is (as the late, great Fred Rogers might have said). First Bull Run, Fredricksburg, and Chancellorsville are well-depicted. I especially would reccomend viewers pay special attention to the Fredricksburg sequence, then watch the Pickett's charge sequence in "Gettysburg" to gain an insight into why the Union troops yelled "Fredricksburg!" in the latter film. The battle scenes also convey well the horrors of war without going a overboard about it like, say, in films like John Woo's "Windtalkers". On a more domestic note, Tom and Anna Jackson's and Joshua and Fannie Chamberlian's love for each other comes across strong without ANY sex scenes (thank you God!), allowing the talents of the actor and actress that play them to come out in full wihout it being dilluted by needless sensationalistic overtones that mar so many films these days (such as the graphic sex besoaked historical travesties "Titanic" and "Pearl Harbor".
On a side note, G&G's runs RINGS around each of those hunks of junk, I am proud to say!) The Civil War reenactors who provide the backbone of the extras must surely be the creme de la creme of the hobby, for they all do excellent work. Indeed, as this writer is a new CW reenactor himself, I hope to one day be as good as the reenactors in G&G! (Look out for the Union reenactors in red shirts, black trousers, and black hats during the First Bull Run sequence: that is my own regiment, the First Minnesota. The lucky members present got to pose with Stephen Lang for a photo during a break in the filming, even! We like to say the First Minnesota captured Jackson at First Bull Run.) Moving on to the cast, Robert Duvall is DEAD ON in his performance as Robert E. Lee (right down to the LOOKS, by gosh!) and Jeff Daniels excells in his second turn as Chamberlian as he did in his first in "Gettysburg" (indeed, his portrayal of C. ranks alongside his performance in "Terms Of Endearment" as Daniels best dramatic work, not to mention being the exact opposite of his "Dumb And Dumber" or "Love Hurts" characters, for example).
Other fine performances can be found in Brain Mallon as Hancock
(Mallon surely is one of the finest character actors there is!), Kali Rocha as Anna Jackson, Mira Sorvino as Fannie Chamberlian, Fankie Faison as Jim Lewis, Donzaleigh Abernathy as Martha, Ted Turner in a delightful cameo as Col. Waller T. Patton, C. Thomas Howell as Tom Chamberlian, Kevin Conway as Buster Kilrain, and Alex Hyde-White as the genial but not too good on a field of battle Union general Ambrose E. Burnside, along with other fine actors too numerous to list here. But it is Stephen Lang who leads the whole ensemble. For example, when Jackson is watching the final preperations for the attack on the Army Of The Potomac's right flank at Chancerllosville, Lang's blue eyes GLOW with the same light that Jackson's blue eyes would! (Thus why Jackson was called "old blue light" by his men.) Note also how Lang brilliantly depicts how Jackson -while he indeed was, as Ken Burns' Civil War documentary noted, a "pious blue-eyed killer"- he was that way only on a field of fight. Off the battlefield, he remained pious, of course, but also revealed a kind, gentle side. Doting on his wife and favorite staff members, and -as is poigantly depicted in the film- losing his heart to young Margaret Corbin, a daughter of a couple who's home is also Jackson's headquarters during the lull between Fredricksburg and Chancerllorsville. Lang also depicts brilliantly how deeply delighted Jackson was by finally becoming a father after so many years of wishing and waiting. Finally, Lang's performance when Jackson dies ranks alongside Yul Brynner's death scene performance in "The King And I" as a classic poigant moment in cinema history. Telling history honestly on the sliver screen is a noble feat, one that "God's And Generals" admirably does. The critcs should have praised it instead of damned it, but it is their loss and the gain of viewers everywhere. By all means check it out, my friends. You will not be sorry that you did, for history comes to poigant, heroic life in this true epic of the American Civil War.
A mockery and a travesty of an incredible event in history
I love the story of the RMS Titanic. Love it so much that I myself cannot fully fathom why, so I've long since stopped questioning it, and went with it. I especially love the stories of the Titanic's people. God how I loved to hear people like Eva Hart, Ruth Becker Blanchard, Edith Brown Haisman, Milvina Dean...you name 'em, talking in a documentary or reading their various accounts. I was so enthusiastic about the Titanic, I wrote to the man who discovered her, Dr. Robert D. Ballard (yes, he replied, and answered my questions. Gee is he a nice person! :-) ) Yes, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Titanic buff. But I HATE, nay DETEST this movie. In fact, I consider it the ultimate example of Hollywood abomination of history. NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING can JUSTIFY what was done to the real history in the film, especially as it pertained to the most important element of it: the Titanic's real-life PEOPLE. Indeed, the beautiful recreation of the Titanic cut both ways in that it made the film an even worse travesty of history while being the only good thing about this clunker at the same time. The fictional characters are, in a word, awful. In fact, they are so awful as to be laughable. Jack Dawson, Calvin Hockley, Ruth and Rose DeWit Bukutor, Spicer Lovejoy...the whole lot of them are CARICTURES, not characters. (It was claimed that Jack and Rose "humanized" the Titanic saga. As Nero Wolfe would say, phooey! They didn't even come within screaming distance of humanizing the Titanic saga they were so awful.) What is more, while careful attention to detail was paid in the creation of the ship sets and other visual details, such attention also was a key part in making "Titanic" a double exploitation picture.
How's that? "Titanic" exploited the appeal of the Titanic story as well as the youth market by cutting open the real history of the Titanic story and plunking down a love story in it's place with a hot couple as the lead characters played by a hunk and a babe that were sure to win the attention of any and all teen (and non-teen) viewers. Thus, the film wound up being a Frankenstien monster. Profitable, to be sure, but still a Frankenstien monster. The beautiful recreation of the Titanic as she looked in her prime dramatically contrasting with the awful teen exploitation story set aboard her in place of the real history. Even worse, it was obviously known that if the film had a true to history depitction of the Titanic's real people in the background of the love story, it would distract from what was inteneded to be the film's bread and butter at the box office: Jack and Rose's romance. So a crass tactic was employed: misinterpretation and assasination of the characters of those like Captain Smith, First Officer Murdoch, Molly Brown, and others while downplaying to the hilt the actions of real-life heroes like Second Officer Lightoller, Marconi Marine operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride, and Wallace Hartley and the other members of the Titanic's band, and even editing out those like Major Arthur Peuchen and Arthur Rostron, skipper of the valorus Titanic rescue ship, RMS Carpathia, just so Jack and Rose could stand out.
Especially Jack, the so-called "hero" of the story (Jack D. is the ULTIMATE awful "hero" in a bad story EVER, but I digress. What is more, the stories of all of the above real-life people-eithier individually, or combined-beat the living heck out of the contrived fictional characters and story in "Titanic" ANY day.) Not to mention how the tragic, unsavory, and controversial actions of the "ship that stood still" and didn't come to the Titanic's aid, the S.S. Californian, were bleached out entirely save for one (deleted) scene. In closing, no excuse, no matter how smoothly phrased, can expunge how this clunker so adroitly exploited the teen market as well as the appeal of the Titanic saga...and all at the expense of over 1,500 people who died in a lonely patch of ocean decades ago when a madien voyage they were enjoying went mad. DOWN with this guilded abomination of the Titanic saga and UP with the REAL history I say!