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teacher_tom516

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Not worth it at all, 7 December 2010
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yet another awful Hollywoodized piece of BS in the vein of Pearl Harbor w/c actually gets more things right than this does. This is more than just a work of pure fiction, it basically takes - I should say exploits - the name Shaka Zulu but the story itself has nothing to do with the Napoleon of Africa. It's a typical white guilt story filled with events that are pure invention. The sets and costumes are ludicrous, the acting is uninspired but frankly even Sir Laurence Olivier or Sir Alec Guiness couldn't have made a silk purse out of this sow's ear.

The story makes it appear that Shaka was making a bid to take over all of Africa and indeed the sets and some characters are more appropriate for the Berber tribes of North Africa than the peoples of the South. Do the idiots writing this thing know how BIG Africa is?? Shaka fought all his life to control Zululand and the surrounding area but was never able to blitz through Africa. What happened instead was a domino effect - his conquest and defeat of the large African tribes in his vicinity would force them to leave and they would defeat other tribes as they fled from him. Some went as far as East Africa (the region around Kenya) but thats about it.

Speaking of East Africa, why the devil would they set it in EAST Africa - Shaka's Zulu Kingdom was in SOUTH Africa, near Natal. It gets worse.

With the Hoff as the action hero, Karen Allen as the damsel in distress I was getting a distinctly Indiana Jones vibe about this mess. Then they had the whole slavery story w/c is pure BS. I would seriously DARE a slaver, white or otherwise to try and make slaves of the Zulu of the period. That would have been funny to watch. In any case the slave trade was concentrated mainly around western equatorial Africa and eastern equatorial Africa. Arab slavers would take the ones from the east to Arabia and White and African slavers would raid and sell their prisoners to the whites on the west coast.

If they wanted to make a story about slavery and have the Hoff there, for pitys sake why not make a story about John Newton, the slaver who would later become a bitter opponent of slavery and write the famous song AMAZING GRACE? Whatever you do, just PASS on this piece of tripe. Get the original miniseries or find Michael Caine's debut film instead. They're a lot more fun and closer to history than this can ever hope to be.

Valkyrie (2008)
8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Why the Nazis are NOT the bad guys... (SPOILERS), 20 February 2009
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

... at least until the movie ends.

I've seen a lot of complaints about how Hitler was a rather sad looking old man who wasn't scary and would never hurt a fly, much less a Jew, and how the Nazis didn't seem like the bad guys - in fact they seemed almost sympathetic - according to some reviewers.

Well, after thinking about it a lot here's what I think is the rationale behind it. The movie tries to take us into this world where people are disappearing, arrested by the Gestapo, you hear wild rumors of Jews being executed but you don't actually see it. All you see are your brother officers and all you have is their word.

Finally when we hear Hitler's voice speaking to Remer, the gloves are off. We see the executions, we see the show trials, we hear Hitler's voice on the radio and we see that yea, the Nazis really are the bad guys.

The movie, to its credit, doesn't make up characters but it DOES conflate characters or change roles slightly to allow for maximum economy of characterization. Off the cuff I remember:

Goerdeler - conflated slightly with Gisevius and the part of the group which was idealistic, civilian and kind of anti-Stauffenberg

Pompous general - Supposed to be Wehrkreis III commander Joachim von Kortzfleisch but I guess they wanted to make him look more pompously over bearing and less sympathetic (and Ian McNeice is certainly one to make it work!) rather than being 'a simple soldier who'd rather be pulling weeds in his garden'.

Africa Korps general - probably supposed to be von Broich but he's given a generic name and killed off. He probably represents the prior efforts of the resistance to recruit the likes of Manstein and later Rommel. I think this might have been problematic as a lot of people apparently thought he WAS Rommel!

von Haeften - takes the roles of all the ADC's, Klausing, etc.

Mertz von Quirnheim - takes the roles of Stieff/Gersdorff in procuring and explaining the explosives as well as the role of Thiele in taking Fellgiebel's call.

Major Freyend and General Tresckow take the roles that their subordinates (Sgt.Vogler and von Schlabrendorff respectively) historically had - again for the sake of both economy of characters and making sure the lead characters are the ones who are active, rather than having a lot of active minor characters.

We hear references to Helmuth Stieff, Col.Linstow and General Bieler as well in the dialogue. It's really nice to think that the writers weren't just pulling names out of their rear ends as is the case in a lot of Hollywood historical epics.

There is some measure of dramatic license in the scenes but this is always done to concisely condense what would have taken at least 3 more characters an 1-2 more scenes to explain if the history was strictly adhered to.

The movie does suffer slightly from shallower characterization than a lot hoped for but this isn't because the actors acted poorly - to the contrary they did the best with what they got. Unfortunately, because of the demands of the genre, what they got sometimes wasn't enough to really give us a good glimpse of their characters.

As it was Witzleben seems virtually irrelevant, which is tragic as he has the hands down BEST end speech during the Volksgericht trials, Beck is reduced to the 'father figure' who Cruise's Stauffenberg is trying to please - a sort of conflation of Ludwig Beck and Stefan George perhaps! - but his role as Stauffenberg's PRECURSOR, the one who would have had his finger on the trigger or the one arming the bomb in 1938, is absent. Goerdeler is reduce to the role of hostile and idealistic opponent to the practical and decisive Stauffenberg and his role as one of the key founders of the Resistance, his opposition to the Nazis over the Mendelsohn statue and his complex nature and naiveté is likewise absent.

To its credit though, the movie does not pander. It uses its dialogue concisely, smartly and effectively. They look and sound like the officers we've read of in books. A lot of people in my experience really tend to respond on a purely emotional level to cinema. They need to have their pulse raising not because of what someone says or explains but because of what they see. A lot in this film is explained through dialogue, through exposition (though there are, fortunately, matching images particularly when discussing the bombing plans) and if you're not paying attention you won't make the connection.

I can appreciate how well the filmmakers did and how they really tried hard to be true to history even if it went AGAINST THE GRAIN of what so many people think the Nazis/German were because of learned stereotyping. But most people can't - they only see 'actors' behaving like they're in a script which "wasn't researched" where Cruise wears an eye-patch. To this younger generation raised on stereotypes and sweeping generalizations and MTV - where images carry so much power and are so ingrained into their consciousness that when they see the German WW2 uniform they immediately think "NAZI" (regardless of whether that uniform was Waffen SS or POSTAL WORKER - those Reich mailmen had IIRC a really sinister looking black uniform so much so that some of those poor sods were shot by vengeful Allied troops and partisans because they thought they were SS!) - they're just not going to get it. That is, IMHO, a problem if not a major "weakness" of the movie - you're gonna have to actually THINK, READ, RESEARCH, DO YOUR HOMEWORK to appreciate this movie.

Heaven forbid a movie forces us to actually use our heads.

Baler (2008)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Laudible historical epic that doesn't seem to rise above the level of a well done school play, 26 December 2008
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I came to the movie with relatively few expectations and I can say that I was both pleasantly surprised and, sadly, unhappily and expectedly disappointed.

The movie IMHO has both hits and misses though I'm pleased to say that in the history department there are a lot more hits than misses. The narrative stays surprisingly true to the historical events allowing for dramatic license and includes such interesting episodes as the carabao, the night raid where two Cazadores set fire to a house to distract the Filipinos and the newspaper which Cerezo reads that convinces him to surrender.

The costumes and wardrobe seem to be spot on though I'm quibbling about the first commanding officer's (Captain Enrique de Las Morenas y Fossí) uniform which seemed ill fitting, with a big arse Spanish cross that looked like double the size of ANY award I've seen, the lack of the cazador bugle horn devices to indicate the Expeditionary Rifle battalions and the stage play quality of the civilian extra's costumes. That being said, this is one play where they actually destressed the costumes to show passage of time, at least for the besieged Cazadores'. Nice touch there. Sadly, the Filipino side's uniform showed no wear and tear.

The casting was.... eh... I wish they'd cast actual Spaniards or Hispanics for the Spanish officers, Las Morenas, Zayas and Cerezo. Cerezo's fake beard was laughable as was the delivery of the Spanish lines though the Filipino lines were the usual 'pinoy movie' cadenced delivery that just makes me want to scream with agony - they haven't changed the way they speak from the sixties, I swear! - so I suppose its nice that they actually had the Spaniards at least speaking Spanish. The casting of Leo Martinez as one of the officers was inspired and Ipe, however messed up his personal life may or may not be, is still one of THE greats of Philippine cinema. Joel Torre, a period move staple is thankfully confined to the background as one of the staff officers, Teodoro Luna Novicio - I was glad that he wasn't pulling another Juan Crisostomo Ibarra here.

The leads... Echo (Jericho Rosales) is fine as the leading man though Anne Curtis... I would have cast someone more morena in the role. The romance was utterly CRINGEWORTHY and it stretches believability in places - how would a barrio lass whos dad is a leader in the local Katipunan in a small town where everyone is expected to gossip get away with being romanced by a Spanish soldier for a year without dad slitting said Cazador's throat? The dialogue was forgettable and to be expected, reminiscent of a very well done high school social studies play and the usual romantic plot points were all hit - obligatory beach scene, obligatory boat on the river scene, obligatory tasteful lovemaking scene, obligatory beefcake scene, obligatory... (you get my drift).

While I didn't care for the dialogue I was pleasantly surprised by the plotting. While the setup for the place, the unit type, and the political situation were sadly lacking - I say this for our friends from abroad, who haven't studied Philippine history - the plot itself, the narrative, and the incorporation of history into the narrative were quite well done, even better than Pearl Harbor in its utilization of history not merely as a backdrop but having history AFFECT the characters. It's on par with Titanic in that respect I think. The twist at the end, which I was kind of expecting because I'd read the history on the Spanam website, was well delivered and quite the tearjerker.

I wish there had been more setup for the place and the unit type. Baler was an inaccessible garrison, a virtual prison for Spanish troops deployed there - the only way in or out was by boat or going through thick, insurrecto held jungle. That this was NOT emphasized by the movie was a major flaw as it sets up the desperation of the situation. You never get the feeling that these guys are in a desperate backs to the wall situation because you don't realize just how ISOLATED Baler is!

The actors facial hair and emaciation is not clear - they fed their cast too well. There's one hilarious moment where this kid, the sacristan, is released from church and he's telling of the conditions inside and he's like, "We don't have anything to eat" but he's looking pretty darn WELL FED to me! He should at least have kept his shirt on instead of attemption to go beefcake.

The conditions that the Spanish soldiers had to fight in aren't really well addressed. The social conditions of Spanish soldiers is spoken of - poor soldiers who couldn't bribe a government official were sent to the colonies - but the conditions upon reaching the colonies aren't addressed. Nothing is done really to indicate that the church was stifling, the latrine stank and overflowed, the illnesses that the soldiers had to deal with (which proved more lethal than Filipino bullets) weren't well explained - its like some scenes they were fine, other scenes in between they were dying of disease, and then they were fine again.

Then there's technical aspects, the music and the camera angles. Especially in the romantic parts the non-diegetic music is too invasive, too annoying, screaming INSERT ROMANCE HERE. The camera angles, the constant tracking around and its not very well executed either, being irregularly jerky a lot of times, as well as the overused and unnecessary crane shots are irritating and generally unmotivated. It smacks of a very expensive, very well done, very well researched high school play.

That being said, it would have been a splended, A+ grade high school play if I had been the teacher.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A worthy effort, 12 November 2007
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the almost forgotten - except by those who were part of it - story of the plan to ferry Allied aircraft across the Atlantic from North American factories. Starting out as a clandestine project called 'the Atlantic Ferry' it became a vital link between a besieged Britain and the 'arsenal of democracy', the United States.

The production looks a bit like one of those Hallmark Channel specials w/c is not in and of itself a bad thing. The scripting is adequate and the plot sticks to the history without forgetting the drama. I liked the interplay between the lead, Shelagh and her two beaus, the dashing American expatriate 'top gun' and the quieter civilian Newfoundlander ex-boyfriend she left to make it big in the world. It's certainly a nice little movie that the people of Newfoundland can be proud of (certainly earns higher marks in my book than the Canadian 'Nouvelle France' and the dreadful American 'Pearl Harbor'). It's a movie my mom (who's a sap for love stories) - and I (the history buff) - can both enjoy.

Casting was good - by Hallmark movie standards. I liked the love triangle leads and the political heavies - Beaverbrook's newspaper mogul was well played as was the heroic Captain Don Bennett (played superbly by Richard E. Grant) - who, by the way was one of the youngest top rank officers in the RAF, attacked the German battleship Tirpitz and founded the legendary RAF Pathfinders which drastically improved the accuracy of the British bombing campaign against Germany.

I appreciate that this was done on a limited budget and having done my own ambitious yet limited budget movies in the past I can empathize with the producers. They did well with what they had. Sure they only had one 'Hudson' - I'm surprised that they were not able to get access to a B-17 Flying Fortress, there seem to be a lot of those for hire (or failing that, a flying model for aerial shots and a wood and canvas frame for the Lancaster to give it a bigger belly to simulate the B-24 Liberator that I know it was trying for!) - and maybe trying to at least keep post-war equipment out of sight. That being said... there were a few things that could have been better done.

The Lockheed Hudson was one of the workhorse anti-submarine bombers of the war, yet what Churchill mentions in the first cabinet scene is that 'the battle of Britain has begun'. Now I don't know about you but that immediately brings another, more iconic aircraft to mind - the SPITFIRE. Yet for all the 'battle of Britain' talk we don't see a single Spit throughout - nor should we. The Spits couldn't make it across the Atlantic. (Bear with me I'm going somewhere with this, honest). Now Beaverbrook complains that his convoys with crated aircraft are being sunk by German U-boats. Fine. Guess what aircraft was being sent AGAINST THE U-BOATS by RAF Coastal Command? Yup, it was the Hudson. The connection is never made that by ferrying Hudsons to the RAF, the Atlantic Ferry is making a contribution to ANOTHER equally important battle - the Battle of the Atlantic. The point could - and SHOULD - have been made that for every Hudson that reaches Britain, that's potentially one U-Boat killed and a better chance of the convoys reaching Britain. Yet it's only later, again with a high profile name, the Bismarck chase (though I liked that they referenced the HMS Hood!) that the sea war is brought into play. I think the scriptwriters 'missed the boat' (pun intended) by omitting this.

From the Wikipedia reference on the Hudson: "The Hudson achieved some significant feats during the war. On 8 October 1939, over Jutland, a Hudson became the first RAF aircraft to shoot down a German aircraft. (The accolade of the first British aircraft to shoot down a German plane went to the Blackburn Skua of the Fleet Air Arm on 26 September 1939.) They operated as fighters during the Battle of Dunkirk. A PBO-1 Hudson of US Navy squadron VP-82 became the first US aircraft to destroy a German submarine when it sank U-656 southwest of Newfoundland on 1 March 1942." Why weren't these brought into play about the Hudson? The last mentioned could have somehow been mentioned - at the very least we should have known that the Hudson was a key aircraft in the U-boat campaign, yet we never know what a valuable little aircraft this was, we only know it was nice to fly (once off the ground), apparently was prone to engine or mechanical failure w/c 'Yankee ingenuity' can fix with some foil cigarette wrapping.

It would have been nice to see some of the RESULTS of the flights - okay maybe it wasn't possible given budget constraints but a fight scene or two would have been good - maybe a montage sequence showing, after the Hudsons were delivered they were flown to Coastal Command squadrons, the pilots briefing and engines starting, recce missions over the coast, a U-boat attack on an unknowing victim thwarted by a snooping Hudson (achtung flugzeuger!) so we, the audience sees just HOW these guys contributed to the final victory.

But I guess you can't win 'em all. Like Don Bennett we must end the show with a bit of disappointment yet hopeful of better things to come. All in all, Above and Beyond, while not really 'going above and beyond the call of duty', was quite a worthy effort.

12 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Why Japan?, 8 October 2007
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In art there is a thing called suspension of disbelief and sadly this is something that dear old Mr.Branagh utterly forgot or seemingly so, in this sadly misplaced and/or miscast As You Like It.

If Branagh had been filming in Japan with Japanese actors like some latter day Kurosawa I'd have understood. If Branagh had been filming in England or America with Asian actors I'd have forgiven him (almost). But here Branagh expects us to be 'transported' to the very European named Forest of Arden with characters like Rosalind, Frederick, Touchstone and Jacques and expects us to believe that this is 19th century Japan with Brian Blessed as a Japanese Duke?

WHY?

If Mr.Branagh expects us to get caught up in the beauty of the poetry and surely he handles his actors well enough to capture the beauty of the bard's lines why didn't he just finance an audiotape? Why bother making a movie at all, a movie that requires us to suspend disbelief to such an impossible degree that it becomes an effort in and of itself.

WHY JAPAN?

Why not Renaissance Europe or Bourbon France. There's a Forest of ARDENNES on the border of France, Germany and Belgium while Jacques is obviously a French name and Frederique, Rosalind and Celia can be French while the swain Orlando can be explained away as an Italian courtier. Did he really have to go as far afield as Mejii era Japan to explain that 'all the world's a stage'?

And this Japan is an utter parody of the Hollywood mythologizing of Mejii Japan, all Ninjas and Samurais and Sumo wrestlers and Kimonos? I didn't come here to watch Last Samurai thanks very much.

--- SPOILER --- And about the Sumo wrestlers and stretching the imagination+suspending disbelief - does Mr.Branagh really expect us to believe that a little shrimp of a man can somehow defeat a massive Japanese sumo wrestler? The two contestants are so unevenly matched that either the big Japanese sumo wrestler was a lousy wrestler to begin with or it was a setup and the Japanese guy was ordered to take a fall. --- SPOILER ---

Someone else said it here, it's almost a rip off of his more successful Much Ado About Nothing (set in Napoleonic/Enlightenment Italy though Keanu and Denzel being brothers once more calls into question whether Mr.Branagh understands the concept of 'suspension of disbelief') that it's painful. I agree. I hate to say it but while the lines and the play are pretty and worth seeing/hearing - and I can still recite 'All the World's A Stage' from memory - this movie really is not.

32 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
This director doesn't know what a square is for - SOME SPOILERS, 6 September 2007
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie should have had SO much going for it. A top rated if somewhat revisionistic director whose first big effort in the west, Elizabeth, certainly made me look up and take notice. A pair of strong male leads whose work in films like American Beauty and The Knights Tale certainly wasn't shabby. Superb production values. And some research certainly went into it as shown by the introduction which references Sir Henry Newbolt's famous poem of Victorian and Edwardian youth and manhood going into battle as if they were going to a football match.

Then, as they say in the Victorian army, 'it all went 'orribly wrong'.

SOME SPOILERS BELOW The history behind this director's chosen period - the first Gordon relief expedition - certainly has more than enough adventure and drama to it, particularly when one considers that not only does Newbolt immortalize it in Vitai Lampada but so does Kipling with his 'Fuzzy Wuzzy' who, indeed, did nearly break the legendary British squares at the battles of Abu Klea and Tamai.

Someone, however, needs to explain to this director what a SQUARE FORMATION is and what it does. This is more than just a military nerd's nitpicking it is - and one sees this at the party scene toward the start - a KEY ELEMENT in the narrative. The officers of the Royal Cumbrians 'form square' to create a nice little romantic space for the romantic leads but what's never explained - probably because the director doesn't get it - is that a square formation is key against both cavalry (as at Waterloo) and native warriors (as at Ulundi and the Sudan) because A SQUARE CANNOT BE FLANKED. You cannot 'get behind' a square and stab the hapless infantryman in the back because another face of the square is guarding the back. As such this formation, outdated on European battlefields where long-range rifle fire and more accurate cannons could mangle these squares at range, was key for fighting less technologically advanced or cavalry heavy enemies.

Now a square is ridiculously vulnerable to fire - logically a shot that hits one guy at one face of the square will hit someone on the opposite face. Infantry cannot stand in square for long as ranged fire will cut them down until there are too few men standing to maintain the formation. Thus the next thing that the director doesn't get comes into play - COMBINED ARMS. A square can stand IF it has artillery - sometimes outside as at Waterloo, sometimes at the corners as at Ulundi and the Sudan to shoot up attackers at range. And the British infantry had a wonderful new piece of artillery with them in the Sudan - the Machine Gun. When speaking of the colonial wars, one British politico remarked, "Whatever happens, we've got the Maxim gun and they don't".

Problem is, after referencing the Newbolt poem the director FORGETS the central stanza with its reference to 'The Gatling's Jammed and the Colonel's Dead'. This was one reason why the Brit squares were nearly broken on occasion by the fanatical Dervishes - the machine guns would sometimes jam, if fired too fast or if it got too hot or sand got into the mechanism, etc.

Toward the end of the battle the surviving British officer orders the soldiers to break formation and retreat. This totally ruined it for me. NO British officer in their right mind would be so stupid - sheer logic dictates that one REMAIN in formation as long as possible as a retreat, every man for himself, would lead to the utter destruction of the unit. Even the surrounded British companys at Isandhlwana fought back to back until they were utterly overwhelmed. By rights the entire regiment should have been eliminated to a man.

Well, that's the military side of things.

The actors are way too politically correct. Like it or not Victorians WERE racist in their attitudes to 'lesser breeds without the law' and no British officer would have hesitated to shoot a man who fired on his troops - the sharpshooter would have been shot down like a dog without a second thought. No explanation is really given for the political situation and one gets the impression that these are transplanted American GI's in Fallujah trying to win hearts and minds rather than British redcoats in the Sudan.

The speech of Durrance at the end was ludicrous and long and given the lack of emotion throughout the movie, never had a snowball's chance in hell of stirring up emotion for the man on the right (or left).

The editing was choppy - particularly toward the end when the couple are walking out of the barracks. The soldiers drilling in the background jump-cut all over the place.

The film, for all the redcoats and 'jolly good old boy' accents NEVER invokes the Victorian era in manners or morals. The director just does NOT get the heart of the film that at this time courage, honour and all those things which we consider effete and stupid today were actually cherished - at least until the carnage of WW1 showed them to be idols with feet of clay.

SPOILERS END HERE.

As a film it's overblown, revisionist and Kate Hudson is horribly miscast. There are many fine British and Commonwealth actresses - why Kate? Just because Almost Famous made her flavour of the month? This film was about as Victorian as Shanghai Knights. No Gunga Din, Zulu or Man Who Would Be King, this one. Spare yourself the agony and expense and watch one of the above three instead of this rotten egg of a picture.

Alatriste (2006)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
This could have been the SHARPE series of Spain but..., 3 July 2007

I was really looking forward to this and I think that it would have been great if the film-maker had taken the risk of making a single - or two - books of the series and then hoping it made enough locally and internationally to warrant sequels. As it was it felt like it was doing too much with too little time, it felt dragging and in the end I got little more than a terrific headache. Which is a pity because I really wanted to like this more than I did.

There's a lot to love here though, the swordfighting with dagger in one hand and rapier in the other was a treat (not that much going around) but the duels went too fast - I suspect because they wanted to cover so much (TOO MUCH) ground. For example the assassination attempt on the two English adventurers could have been more drawn out, more tension could have been injected there. Not to mention when we find out who these are they could have made the connections with that other swashbuckler, the Three Musketeers as well as made more reference to English history for us non Iberian types. More could have been done with the campaign vs the French (this was the Cyrano period!) which could have also helped international audiences resonate.

You didn't understand the motivation of the Dutch vs the Spanish either, the whole Dutch revolt, the religious issues, the political issues, etc. were not tackled at all, which is a pity as it would have been good to frame the action against the geopolitical situation (the ruthless mismanagement of the Duque de Alva and other issues that forced the Dutch hand) The issue of mercenaries of various countries and the type of warfare they had back then including the Tercios - we never really got to see the tercio in all its glory and see why it was, at that time, the most feared military organization in Europe. Ah to have seen a Spanish Tercio fight a Dutch battalion...

But basically, too much to say, too little time, too shallow, too little real nuance, too rushed character development. This could have been the Sharpe of Spain, Capitan Alatriste and his merry band of rogues from book's one to five. Instead it's rushed, shallow and uneven execution leaves one exhausted and glad it's over. Capitan Diego de Alatriste deserved more.

Viva Alatriste, Tom516

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Why Pearl Harbour fails - and Michael Bay misses the mark..., 20 June 2007
2/10

The film is aesthetically a treat to be sure but it fails almost everywhere else. Michael Bay, Bruckheimer and Wallace thought they could get away with making a film that, quite honestly, would not be out of place had it been done in 1942 - the movie about 'Wake Island' has a tacked on romance and the movie 'Bataan' has the stereotypical interracial bunch - but nowadays moviegoers want something smarter and as true to history as possible while delivering a great story. Most people also know how to spot blatant propaganda and avoid it like the plague.

I think the romance is not a problem, neither is the plot the problem. The problem is the execution which is lazy and little more than a video game writ large. Check out the movie Dark Blue World about WW2 Czech fighter pilots for comparison. EXACT same plot line but worlds apart in treatment and respect for the Czech heroes who fought with the Free Czech airforce in the UK and came home only to be branded traitors by the new Communist regime.

Titanic had a truckload of crappy Hollywood dialogue but it made good. The reason I think is it was true to its source material. Michael Bay just tacks on the lovestory to a fictionalized story about real Pearl Harbor heroes - Taylor and Welch - and somehow sends them to participate in the Doolittle Raid (nevermind that fighter pilots don't fly bombers!) I think that yeah, expectation also has a lot to do with it. With the name Pearl Harbor you expect it to be a WAR MOVIE like Battle of Britain or A Bridge Too Far. Maybe some romantic interest but it shouldn't be the main theme - the main theme should be the WAR. For my part I was expecting a mix of John Toland and Walter Lord but I got something that's barely a cut about Ma Nouvelle France, that horrible Quebecquois movie about the fall of New France to the British which is YET ANOTHER Titanic ripoff. Sadly, too many people thought that just by tacking on a romance to a historic story and making it sappy they'd emulate the success of Titanic. No such luck.

Titanic succeeds where the wannabees fail because it:

a) appeals to a very broad spectrum of people (ie. higher ticket sales!) - the yuppies and lovers can gush over Di Caprio and Kate Winslet's Romeo-Julietesque love story, the boys can wait up for the Winslet nude drawing scene, the girls can swoon over Di Caprio, the geeks and rivet counters can errm count the rivets and enjoy the history brought to life.

b) incorporates various elements of story into the plot almost flawlessly and with respect to historical reality - history here isn't just a backdrop it ACTIVELY AFFECTS THE STORY (this is where Pearl Harbor fails dismally).

In Titanic the division between classes and decks becomes a physical divide that separates the lovers from each other and later, threatens to separate them from survival. The class restrictions provide the characters with motivations that go beyond mere mushyness - Kate's escape here is not just to be with the one who she loves but it is an escape from the restrictions of her class to be her own person and live a full life. Leo's role here as hero-saviour fits into classic mythic structure and it plays well, in spite of the corny dialogue. It becomes real to the viewer because the characters become real and the characters become real because the history, the scenario, the environment is real and true to the facts within the bounds of good drama. One loses one's self in this fiction instead of - as in Pearl Harbour's case - being reminded constantly that this is a blown up (pardon the pun) video game with a lovestory tacked on for the girl crowd.

c) Titanic also succeeds because it taps into the female audience by presenting a VERY powerful and positive female archetype. Where most movies of this type (historical action) focus on male achievements and character growth (and the female is little more than a pretty plot-point) Titanic's Rose de Witt-Bukater IS the main character (along with, essentially, the ship itself) and Jack Dawson is her mythic savior-redeemer. This is something we rarely see in movies of this type - only perhaps Gone With The Wind's Scarlett O'Hara can provide something comparable. It empowers women and gives women what they want - the inspiration to strive for their dreams and a man who will help them achieve that.

This is becoming a Titanic review more than a Pearl Harbor review but I point these out because Pearl Harbor very obviously seeks to emulate the aesthetics and scale of Titanic but gets the method to the multi-million dollar madness of Titanic completely wrong. It is a lazy film for lazy viewers who want their brains handed to them on a plate. Its beauty is ONLY skin deep and there is nothing more to be learned once the credits roll. Which is a pity when one considers that it purports to honour the heroes who died on a tragic Sunday morning in December, which led to millions more deaths and untold suffering in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the world's first atomic attack. An event like that deserves more than to be reduced to a glorified music video or video game for the attention deficient. It's just sad that most people can't see how this film pisses into the hallowed waters over the sunken hulk of the USS Arizona.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Disney botches is again!, 28 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What is it with Disney movies? Inspector Gadget and Herbie Fully Loaded are just two of the reasons that I think that they're (almost) unwatchable.

Perhaps it's just to cater to 'the kids' - like Lucas did with his new trilogy - that they 'hipped up' everything even at the cost of losing the spirit of the cartoon.

Inspector Gadget was one of my favorite cartoons - I used to tape every episode on Betamax (and I even taped over a rented Top Gun beta because I didn't check what was in the Beta!) - and I was really hoping (perhaps against hope) that Disney would do it right for a change.

This offering is nowhere NEAR the Cartoon Inspector Gadget. At best it shares the character and the basic storyline but it has none of the 'smarts' and attraction that the cartoon did. As many other reviews mentioned almost everything in this movie is 'non-canonical'.

First off, Matthew Broderick as Gadget? Come on! What's Colonel Robert Gould Shaw doing there pray tell?? He talks just the same way he did in Glory (and I love that movie by the way) not in that very strange high pitched Inspector Gadget voice. And John Brown? PLEASE! When did this become a Civil War picture? Second, attitude. Inspector Gadget is a cartoon Clouseau, he's a clueless Mr.Incredible, he THINKS (and everyone else thinks) that he's doing it all with his gadgets but it's really Penny and Brain! Third, Penny and Brain. This is where they really botch it big I think. The central premise of Inspector Gadget (the cartoon) is CHILD WISH FULFILLMENT - it's letting the child viewer identify with Penny and Brain, it's almost like Charlie Brown and Snoopy as detectives (well maybe not Charlie Brown, but you get what I mean, a child and their pet out on a great adventure). Sure, Gadget is the vehicle that makes the show move but Penny and Brain are the ones that solve things. There's also that super computer book which (before the internet) was just the coolest thing - the information of the world at your fingertips.

They brought Scooby and Garfield to life, why not Brain? This is a really important point I think. This is certainly why I watched - and the thought that for a 12 year old kid Penny was smart and smart=sexy. Disney used to do this so well - how could they miss the mark so badly here? Third, Dr.Claw - he's Jaws (the shark). You don't show the shark till the end and maybe not even then. Even in the cartoon intro when Gadget puts the cuffs on him and it's a bomb. That's just the best. Why bother showing his face? Would you show the face of the neighbor in Home Improvement? Fourth, the wise-ass mobile. That really spoiled it for me big time at first viewing. What is this Shrek and Donkey except Broderick's 'security guard' with no attitude is less of a character than Shrek? The Gadget mobile was almost like one of the Bond mobiles - can you imagine the Bond mobile shooting its mouth off like that? Too much stupid and unnecessary updating.

I don't know why they even bother, except for lucrative gain. Those people are all special effects and NO form, NO substance. They never did their homework and found out what made Inspector Gadget tick. Heaven forbid they do 'Where in the World is Carmen San Diego' the movie!

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A brilliantly told tale of how image influences our perception of heroes., 15 November 2006
10/10

Now I've not read the book - yet - and I think that may be where some of those who dislike the film are coming from. Maybe there were too many things left out, I don't know. A film can only last so long.

First off - it's not 'a typical war movie'. It's not Saving Private Ryan (definitely and THANKFULLY) and it's not 'yet another movie about soldiers in war and how everyone was brave and fighting for his buddies, blah, blah, blah'.

This movie was - and it mentions this - about how we create heroes for our own purposes, even reluctant heroes like Ira Hayes. It was about the whole media circus surrounding these three guys and how they were essentially used by their government to get people to buy war bonds - and all the while the events and scenes on the island remained to haunt them.

It's about luck and chance - the first flag raisers were just as heroic, indeed it is implied MORE HEROIC because they went up the hill in the face of possible Japanese resistance and had to fight off snipers. Yet does anyone remember them or remember that there were two flag raisings on Iwo? The first flag raising was documented, but it was Rosenthal's dramatic shot that made history.

Indeed what does anyone remember about Iwo but the flag raising? That's all we ever hear of and see. Clint reminds us that the flag raising on day 4 of the landings was only part of 34 horrific days where 3 of those faceless heroes died and the survivors had to deal with the effects of those 34 days for the rest of their lives. It's a good reminder, given the times we live in.

Clint also reminds us that we receive our news about war through disjointed and sometimes 'manufactured' images - I don't mean it's posed but the hype about them is sometimes manufactured by people like the Victory Bond event coordinator - and yet those who are in those images, who make the history LIVE THROUGH IT 24/7. And often they die in it as well. And if they survive they carry other images, images that are snapshots in their own personal memories. Images that we, the viewing, consuming, 'war-bond buying' public will NEVER see.

Thanks to Clint, we get a small glimpse of those images here in Flags of Our Fathers.

His use of camera and the superb production design, showing the epic scale of the invasion fleet, the different classes of battleships hitting the beaches with heavy ordnance, the sense of helplessness as thousands of machine guns and pre-sighted artillery make every inch of beach a killing ground and the terrifying night encounters with fanatical Japanese defenders take you there with the boys of the 5th Marines. There is brutality aplenty, from distanced fire to bloody bayonet and knife fights in the dark to Japanese defenders blowing themselves up with hand grenades but it is all tastefully handled.

Perhaps the most chilling moment though involves a tacky white chocolate sculpture being inundated with scarlet strawberry sauce. Chilling shades of Psycho's shower scene with an ironic twist. I have a feeling that Hitchcock would be proud.

Perhaps Letters from Iwo Jima will be a bit more 'action packed' so perhaps more to the liking of the lowest common denominator - the 'typical war film' so to speak. After all it's based on Kuribayashi's letters home, right? If you want a typical war film wait for that - or drag out Saving Private Ryan for the millionth time. Or the Sands of Iwo Jima.

If you want a brilliantly told movie about image-making, hero-making, the effects of war on the human spirit and the price of man's inhumanity toward man, I cannot recommend 'Flags of Our Fathers' highly enough.


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