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Gods and Generals (2003)
Better than its reputation
This is a wonderful film, and Stephen Lang, who was wonderful as Pickett in Gettysburg, shines as Jackson. He at least deserved an Oscar nomination. He wasn't acting as much as he became Jackson. (He's stated this was one of his favorite roles.) Duvall makes a terrific Lee, and Daniels does a terrific job of reprising his role of Chamberlain. My only complaint is the music, which doesn't live up to that in Gettysburg. (As a matter of fact, the music is why I don't give the film a 10.) Bob Dylan's singing doesn't belong here, nor does the other song. Put them on the CD if you want, but they don't belong in the film.
In addition to being one of the best films of the 1990s (Personally, it's my favorite film of that decade.), this is one of the finest films to deal with the Civil War, period. Director Ron Maxwell assembled a terrific cast, and with them, paid homage to not one, but both sides of the war. Heroism is shown to be on both North and South, and the officers aren't anti- the opposition. They're tired of the fighting, and just want to see it end. No one's there for the glory, and the film points out that the war dealt with so much more than slavery. The performances are terrific, and the music is outstanding. Somehow this film hasn't garnered the attention it rightfully deserves. If you get the chance, catch the Director's Cut.
This is an excellent documentary dealing with those who perished on Flight 93 and the heroism that occurred on Sept. 11. It allows us to feel what their families went through, via interviews with friends and families. The special features on the DVD are quite interesting, and it allows us to realize that yes, these were mere mortals, but at the same time, people who stepped up when it counted. America needs to remember this story always, not put it in the past as it has so many examples of its history. This is a stirring tribute, and we should be proud to have had the people among us. I hope that everyone gets a chance to view this, which is why I've added it into the church library that I run.
Breakheart Pass (1975)
One of the finest westerns of the 1970s
Alistair MacLean wrote the screenplay from his own novel, so needless to say, director Tom Gries was extremely faithful to the original source. For those who consider Bronson as just another actioneer star, this is actually a mystery film, with a great deal of suspense. When the action scenes DO appear, second unit director Yakima Canutt did a super job. (Then again, when didn't he?) Gries assembled a great cast of some of the 1970s finest character actors (Charles Durning, Ben Johnson, David Huddleston, Bill McKinney, Ed Lauter), and turned them into a terrific ensemble. Topping it off was Jerry Goldsmith's outstanding score, which has just come out on CD for the first time. The main theme goes to the rhythm of the train, adding to the suspense. Magnificent! Regretfully, one has to be a Bronson fan or a true lover of the western genre in order to even know about this film. However, this is far more than a western, it's a detective story, and an extremely enjoyable one.
Good film for Preston to go out on
This is a film that makes us realize there is sometimes a difference between justice and the law. Robert Preston shines as the grief-stricken father, who, after a miscarriage of justice, takes matters into his own hands, and is put on trial for it. Beau Bridges, as his attorney, realizes there's something to the fight Preson is making. Mel Ferrer, as the judge who had to let a criminal go, is outstanding. His conscience bothers him, but he abides by the law he's sworn to protect. And Burgess Meredith is a crusty as ever. Some great old pros in this one.If this film doesn't make you think, you need to watch it again.
A glorious failure
CIMARRON didn't do well at the box-office, and what a pity. Then again, it's the story of a man who was considered to be a failure in life by those who knew him, yet, when you look at him, Yancey Cravat was the most successful man around. It took me several viewings of the film to recognize this, and for that, I'm ashamed of myself.
The 1931 version is more faithful to Edna Ferber's novel. However, this version, which contains one of Glenn Ford's best performances, is more entertaining, and has an outstanding Franz Waxman score. It's the tale of a man who lives by his own personal code, living by his conscience, and suffers the consequences for it.
CIMARRON is a film that cries to be seen in widescreen, and hopefully gets such a release in DVD. Until then, TCM is the place to watch it. Anthony Mann went from making westerns to epics, and with this film, he was in the best of both worlds.
The Unholy Three (1930)
Excellent Swan Song for Chaney
Every great performer deserves a wonderful finish to their careers, and Lon Chaney got one with this remake of his 1925 classic. As a matter of fact, he topped the original, due to the fact that with sound, he was able to show his vocal versatility in addition to being The Man of a Thousand Faces. For each character he portrayed, he had differing voices, something he was (of course) unable to do in the silent era.
People have wondered what he could have done with Dracula, although it's been proved there was never any such proof Chaney was sought for the part. (Chaney was under contract to MGM, Dracula was made by Universal, and MGM wasn't about to loan out one of their top stars.) Still, MGM had some great films lined up for him, and more's the pity they never got made. No one's replaced him, nor will they.
Lonesome Dove (1989)
Sets the Standard
What's there to say? This is a Damon & Phythias story of two men, who, upon hearing of a Promised Land up north, take what they have, and set out for it. One of them goes because that's where his friend is heading. It's camaraderie, love, friendship, bravery, and more, all put together with some of the best acting in a long time and of the the finest scores we'll ever hear.
Duvall's performance is legendary, but the rest of the cast is not outshone at all. They rise to the occasion and match him. It's the character of Gus we love as much as Duvall's feistiness.
Terrific performances and outstanding script make this a must-see, especially for fans of the genre. Even if you don't like westerns, you'll love LONESOME DOVE.
Finding John Christmas (2003)
Like its predecessor, I wish I had taped this wonderful film. An outstanding film that lets us realize there's more to us than ourselves, this film allows us to see that debts (& not just monetary) need to be paid, & that our actions affect others, even in the long run.
It's great to see Peter Falk continuing in the role of Max, the angel whose work is never done, & affects so many. His minutes onscreen aren't as many, but Oh! How he makes the most of them! No offense to any other cast members, but he's the reason for watching this fine film.
This is a film to watch again & again & again!
Open Range (2003)
A fine tribute to those that came before.
Costner has evidently studied the works of Anthony Mann, as there are traces of THE FAR COUNTRY & BEND OF THE RIVER in this fine film. You have cattlemen on the move, & a man trying to bury his past. However, he doesn't brazenly attempt to copy them. Instead, he pays tribute to those excellent Mann-Stewart films, & molds his own work.
The performances are outstanding, especially Duvall, who's deserving of his second Oscar. Bening makes me wish I could find a woman like Sue Barlow.
An excellent work, & one that proves the western is not dead at all. Thank you, Kevin Costner.