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War Horse (2011)
A Fantastic War Movie that Will Appeal to All Audiences
I was lucky enough to see War Horse in a special pre-screening last week, and I can safely say I will be seeing it again when its released on Christmas day. I went in with relatively low expectations, after watching the series of mediocre trailers, and walked out being able to safely say that War Horse is one of the best movies of the year, one of Steven Spielberg's best films, and, quite possibly, one of the best war films ever made, up there with my personal favorites The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now and Paths of Glory.
Steven Spielberg had long said that he didn't want to make Saving Private Ryan again. He said he wanted War Horse to be a war movie that parents cant take their children to and teach them something about love and war, and in this respect I can say that he more than succeeded. Spielberg comes close to the clinical perfection of Private Ryan, but more importantly, from an emotional perspective, War Horse far exceeds Private Ryan. There are many people apt to cry at Private Ryan, but War Horse is more likely to cause tears at a similar level to, say, Schindler's List. More importantly, unlike either Schindler or Private Ryan, War Horse is unlikely to cause any sort of political or moral complaints. He never tempers the anti-war message with nationalist tripe. Rather, he plays war straight. War is evil, men are good. There are no sides in this movie. In fact, at various points throughout the film, he seems to directly reject Saving Private 's heroism is dying for country message.
War Horse is based on the children's book and play of the same name. It is about a boy who's father, on a whim, buys a horse for his son that he knows will never be what is needed for the farm work it is purchased for. The boy forms an incredible bond with the horse. The first forty five minutes of the film is spent establishing the relationship between boy and horse. This part of the film is rather slow, but is necessary to establishing the film's central relationships, and is quickly made up for by the shift in pace as soon as the war begins. From the Scottish country side, after this important turning point in world history, War Horse shifts to France, where the titular horse is serving after being sold to the army. The boy is a year or two too young to follow his horse to Europe at this point, so for the next section, the film follows the horse only. From here on out, I will leave the plot a mystery, but it is gripping, thrilling, and very emotional.
There are two scenes in War Horse that I think are worthy of further mention. The first is a charge across no man's land. For anyone not familiar with the bulk of World War I's combat, it consisted of months at a time of back and forth shooting between trenches, broken up by awful charges across no man's land, to take a few hundred yards of enemy territory. These charges, as short as they were, as a result of the machine gun, came with death tolls in the thousands or higher. War Horse contains one of these charges, and it is carried out with both taste, and near perfect artistry. It is just grisly enough to get the reality across, but not so grisly that it makes the movie impossible to show to younger audiences. In fact, this trench charge ranks up with Steven Spielberg's other famous World War battle scene, the beach landing in Saving Private Ryan. It doesn't quite make it, but it comes close.
The other scene worthy of mention also occurs in the trenches, and reflects the other side of War Horse. The titular horse gets caught in the barbed wire in No Man's Land. The soldiers on either side spot it. No one knows what to do, as it is clear that its in incredible pain, but they know that leaving their respective trench would expose them to machine gun fire. Eventually two soldiers, one British, the other German both move to free the horse. The soldiers on both sides know what is going on, so no one fires a shot. This scene is unbelievably touching. The discussion they have (the German soldier happens to speak good English, explained adequately through a joke) will move even the most cynical of viewers, and gives a good idea of just what perspective War Horse takes to the act of war.
There are a few small problems in War Horse that, in most films, I would take issue with, but I will forgive in this case as I feel that they are so necessary for this film to appeal to younger audiences. The German soldiers speak English to one another, a big pet peeve for me. I would have preferred for French characters to speak subtitled French and German characters to speak subtitled Germans, but I recognize that many younger viewers refuse to read subtitles. There are a few unnecessary jokes, but again, younger viewers will enjoy these. Spielberg, as always, has three different endings tacked onto the movie, in this case necessary to provide the cut and dry resolution younger viewers require. As I said, these are still problems, but they are, for better or worse, required to accomplish what Spielberg was trying to.
I can say with absolute certainty that when Christmas rolls around, I will be dragging all my younger relatives to a screening of War Horse. I have never seen a movie so able to pull its punches enough to get a PG- 13 rating, but show enough to explain just what it is about war that makes it such an odious, disgusting, awful affair. In short, see War Horse as soon as you possibly can.
You've Been Trumped (2011)
A Brilliantly Made, Emotionally Potent Documentary
You've Been Trumped is a movie that, hopefully will go down in history as one of the great environmental documentaries, alongside Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. manages to not only be an upsetting, interesting, and engaging documentary, made by a first time film maker, but a brilliantly made film as well. Not to mention the fact that it is often laugh out loud funny and features a sound track to rival many Tarantino films.
The greatest accomplishment of You've Been Trumped, however, is that it is pretty much guaranteed to make you hate Donald Trump even more than you already do. It paints him as more than just a profiteering industrialist looking to make a quick buck at the expense of the environment. It also manages to include moments of his blatantly lying to reporters, as well as a subtle moment of him totally objectifying women for the sake of money. It should say something that this little documentary that has only been to a couple film festivals so far has provoked a huge reaction from Trump himself. He has made statements calling the film makers frauds and refusing to see the film because its "boring".
The basic story of You've Been Trumped is that Donald Trump set out to build "The World's Greatest Golf Course" and picked out as the location a Scottish beach. The thing is that this particular beach has sand dunes that are essentially the British equivalent of a National Monument. Despite this, he was given government approval to destroy the dunes. At this point, he thought he had won. The British and Scottish governments had given him carte blanche. The one thing he hadn't counted on was the resistance of a few local farmers, who's families had owned their land for generations, against the development. The film charts their fight to protect their land from essentially being bulldozed by Trump.
The film is brilliant not just for the way it charts the destruction that Trump does, both against the environment, and against the people, but because it is so well made. For one thing it looks gorgeous. Of course part of that comes naturally when you are shooting in some of the most gorgeous country on earth, but considering the budget and experience of those involved, its amazing how good You've Been Trumped looks. Even other than in the cinematography, the film is very well made. Even during the slower moments in terms of the plot, the film always feels interesting thanks to the great direction and editing.
You've Been Trumped is one of the best documentaries in years, and hopefully it will go on to win further recognition. It has only been to a few film festivals so far, but it has already won a few awards. It is emotionally potent, as well as being politically strong enough to inspire people to action. It is put together better than documentaries with twice the budget. Hopefully it will go on to have a great run and make enough of a splash to do some serious damage to Trump's Monopoly.
The X Files: Home (1996)
I Think I May Be Sleeping With the Lights On Tonight
Oh dear, how do you describe Home? Part of the great shock and power of the episode that I had was going in knowing only that the episode was classic, scary, and rated TV-MA. I plan to write this review without revealing any of the plot. At all. Many other reviews reference the ingenious and very cinematic "Wonderful Wonderful" scene, so I think I will start from there, as that scene really contains some of the best elements of the episode, indeed the entire show.
A brief description of the scene without revealing any plot points:
The villains (normal people really, despite some physical deformities) are going to kill a man and his wife.
Let me start with the acting: the performance on the part of their target is simply magnificent, and in his little screen time he portrays first a man with everything seemingly under control, then a man on the brink of sheer terror. The villains though, even with out any significant spoken lines, are brilliantly cast, seeming to be, as I said normal, in their every action, except for the fact that they are not.
Next, the cinematography: the cinematography in this scene is gorgeous and shocking. It manages to show the violence just enough to scare the heck out of you without going overboard. The camera shows you the perspective of the man and his wife and little else.
The use of music: violent beating deaths to the song "Wonderful Wonderful". Need I say more?
And the atmosphere: I have never been really scared by a film or TV show in my life. This came close. Didn't quite do it, but if you are easily, or I guess averagely scared, you will not sleep. Might I add I watched it at night in a basement, alone? I suggest doing so if you really want to feel the episode.
Finally, I feel I should comment on the violence and the TV-MA rating, as many others have. While the violence is there, and quite bloody and shocking at times, it is not significantly worse, in terms of what is shown, than episodes like Quagmire. The violence really comes from what is implied. Expect not to see blood spray on screen, but prepare to see it in your mind.
The X Files: Syzygy (1996)
Kind of creepy while at the same time absolutely hilarious
While considered a "comedy" episode, unlike most of the comedy episodes it also can be very creepy at times. The comedy of the episode comes from a look at the Mulder/Scully dynamic that is almost spoof-like in nature. This comedy is well presented in great bits of dialog. The dialog and the comedy flows naturally the plot and theme of people acting strangely due to the alignment of the planets, however, what makes it work is the fact that every funny line and out of character action comes from the vision normally presented of the characters. For instance, while he never drinks, it seems with in the basic boundaries of the Mulder character to chug vodka. It should be noted though that unlike the other comedy episodes, the comedy tends to be less laugh out loud funny, and more smooth and witty, although there are a few of the laugh out loud moments in this episode.
Now for the other side of the episode, and that is the fact that it is downright creepy and surreal. Going into this episode knowing nothing about it, when things begin to get really weird, I started to think I might be dreaming or something. This comes not just from the dialog, but from the mood and tense atmosphere created by the solid art direction and typically excellent music and cinematography.
In conclusion, unlike most of the comedy episodes, Syzygy is not an episode to show to those new to The X-Files. It is twisted and creepy, and delves deep into the Mulder Scully dynamic.
The X Files: The List (1995)
A waste of good performances and atmosphere
The List is an episode full of wasted potential. The atmosphere is incredible inside the prison with eerie colors, lights, and camera work. The supporting performances are also very strong, with the short performance of the actor who played the dead inmate Neech really standing out.
The problems come in when it comes to the plot and the pacing. The basic plot is that Neech was a death row inmate who was very interested in reincarnation, and upon his death promised to return and avenge himself by killing five people who treated him unjustly. While there are a few small twists and red herrings, this is the basic plot, and we get it in the first five minutes. The episode is intended to be a thriller, but that is where the problems lie, because unlike episodes like D.P.O, there is never a sense of danger, causing the episode to get very slow for the middle twenty minutes or so. The first fifteen minutes are good by virtue of the atmosphere still being "new" to the viewer, and the last ten are very special, and earned the episode at least one of the stars I gave it, and save this episode from being a total stinker.
The X Files: Død Kalm (1995)
Dod Kalm has a very simple but intriguing plot, and is full of good character moments, but ultimately, it falls flat.
While the atmosphere is good, and the sets are excellent, the art direction is plagued by shoddy special effects.
While Anderson and Duchonvy give typically good performances, the rest of the cast is plagued by terrible acting. The less important the character, the worse the acting, which makes the scenes establishing the base story and the atmosphere unbelievable.
On top of all that, however is the problem that the episode is just plain boring. Even with far worse episodes, things manage to always stay somewhat interesting, however for some reason about fifteen minutes in, things stop happening and the episode becomes just plain hard to get through. The whole thing might work better if it was half the length that it was.
The Killing Fields (1984)
The most well made film I have ever seen, also the most disturbing.
The Killing Fields is a very well made film, and very well acted, with a message far more deep than any war film. This film is breathtaking epic that can't be missed.
The Killing Fields, is not just an ordinary war film, for it is not about war, it is about people, this film has almost no characters that are "Good Guys" instead, most of the characters are manifested as "Bad Guys", it is also about society and the pointlessness of mindless violence.
The Killing Fields also has incredible music that always manages to perfectly express the mood of the scene. Possibly the best thing about the film is the ending, it manages to, with almost no words express the entire message of the film.
The Killing Fields is an un miss able movie that manages to characterize people, not war, as most wars films do, in fact it characterizes people so well that it becomes apparent that people love war, but it doesn't have to be that way.
I Am Legend (2007)
A terrible, stupid, film
I originally was going to take up all 1,000 words of this review saying repeatedley not to see this movie, but that would not have been productive so I decided to write a real review.
I must say, I am a huge fan of the 70s version of the book "I am Legend", "Omega Man", and with the movie "I am Legend", I was hoping for a better made, more modern version of the same thing, but I defidentley did not get that, and here is why.
-Will Smith's character is just not very deep, he is far too much of a "Goody Two Shoes", I also think that the fact that he seems completely sane just flat out DOES NOT FIT.
-The zombies just flat out did not work. In "Omega Man" the zombies are actually thinking beings that convey a powerful message about society. Also, even with all sorts of modern effects, the zombies just look stupid instead of scary.
-The story behind the virus does not at all fit reality. First of all a specialized strain of measles would not be able to be turned into a cure for cancer because it does not directly attack cells, also, a pill or injection could not mutate in the short amount of time between the time the cure is first used and the time it mutates for it to develop an air born strain. The zombies are said to exhibit rabie like symptoms which does not fit the mutated measles concept.
-Lastly, the cheesy story line does not fit the big budget effects and actors.