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A film everyone should see, especially now.
28 March 2020
We all play for time against Death, but this film dramatizes it like no other.

It is both ironic and tragic that Max von Sydow just died, himself. He was very much a Christian - in the existential sense - knight, himself.

I believe I first saw the film at Swedish-Lutheran-American Augustana College, and before and sometimes after our world literature classics class, my best friend there - who was Swedish-American and looks rather like Max von Sydow - and I would play chess while incidentally discussing basic questions of life.

As we see our world collapsing now too because of disease, the knight shines forth as a human being facing life ... and death ... with courage and nobility ... thinking of others.
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The Trench (1999)
The rats are too small and uniforms too clean, but it vividly depicts the mentality of doomed men.
9 March 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Daniel Craig is very good ... believable ... in this. Very much the sergeant. He is also excellent in Archangel (Russia). The jury is still out about his James Bond, which is entirely different.

There are some good, realistic, and disturbing undercurrents in this psychological portrayal:

  • Craig's sergeant is a career soldier and family man - 2 daughters and 1 son - who is realizing his life is about to be wasted by his Army/corporation.
  • The corporal being a scared but nonetheless vicious bully pushed to his psychological limit by his fear of his impending death.
  • The nude girl in the corporal's nude photos apparently being the postal worker Pvt McFarlane has a crush on ... or fantasy about ... or maybe just similar face ... implying the lower class's girls back home are being corrupted into prostitution while their boyfriends are being wasted.
(Who *is* that beautiful girl?! Is she an actress? Why isn't she in the credits?)
  • The lieutenant's alcoholism.
  • The randomness of death in the trenches and the certainty of death of going up over the top out of them.
  • The irony of the one brother being wounded ... and surviving.
  • The squadie asking the visiting colonel if he is going to accompany them in the attack, the colonel uneasily (albeit not guiltily) admitting (after trying to pump them up telling them how easy it will be) he won't be, and then the squadie being taken around the corner and slapped upside the head by the career sergeant for (having the guts ) to speak up.
  • The lying chain of command telling them first that they will be in the 3rd wave with a better chance of survival and then unforeseen difficulties putting them in the first wave. Or was it dooming retaliation for the squadie's question?

There are indeed jarringly inconsistent unrealities: only 1 little rat, clean uniforms, no gloomy constant Northern European rain/drizzle as someone else has pointed out, No Man's Land looking verdant when it should look like The Craters of the Moon especially after the bombardment, ... but the film's military social and mental message outweighs them

Lots of people are eager for a "major war" these days - Tyler Cowen in the 13 June 2014 New York Times, for example - and their friends and families should see this.
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The Alamo (2004)
Excellent, dramatic historical film slandered by ignorant critics.
28 February 2020
This is the most accurate film about the Alamo massacre that I have seen. And it takes the time to bring out the very human personalities of the historical figures involved. The savagery of those times and battles is clear and hard to dismiss. It was good to see the U.S. Army Regulars Andy-by-God-Jackson had sent down, in the film. As the Texican Army retreats, the viewer *feels* the frustration and growing anger of its men, as Houston - fully played by Dennis Quaid - waits ... and waits. If that quote of him about Wellington is true, he had certainly learned from him. (My GGG Grandfather Charles Jack was a 17 year old Scots British Army officer cadet in Belgium in 1815 - later he joined The British Legion in Bolivar's War of Independence in Venezuela.) Patrick Wilson is a perfect Travis, as he would be a perfect Lt. Cdr Layton in the new Midway film. Great intensity. And Jason Patric's Bowie is similarly vivid, unforgettable. But of course Billy Bob Thornton's *David* Crockett is the film's showpiece. Every American - not just Texan - should see this film and learn from it.
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An excellent complement to the other new Midway film, focusing on the service of and dangers for naval aviators.
8 February 2020
This is an excellent complement to the other new Midway film. It focuses on the danger of being a carrier plane flight crew, including the chance of being lost at sea. (In the also-excellent Japanese animation of the Oct42 carrier Battle of Santa Cruz, a Wildcat fighter pilot has to bail out, and you see him parachuting into the vast Pacific with the implication of little or no chance of ever being found so far from base (Espiritu Santo).

I thought the CGI was very good, and note the Pensacola class heavy cruiser and the USS Atlanta antiaircraft cruiser rendered so faithfully.

All the time spent on the men in the water was excruciating but fair, considering what a lot of aircrew went through. Back in Macomb Illinois, I had a friend named Ben T. Scheik who had been a 21 year old PBY pilot and somehow survived the war. He was a heck of a pilot, a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and I could see Ben wearing a Hawaiian shirt flying his plane. :-)

Everyone should watch Hollywood director John Ford's color Battle of Midway documentary film on YouTube, wherein he focuses on the importance of search and rescue after the battle. To people at that time both in and out of the service, our servicemen's safety and wellbeing was uppermost in their minds.

And the scene in this movie of the submarine surfacing raises the question of whether missing aircrew were picked up by the many Japanese subs north of Midway ... and what might have happened to those aircrew.

I'm not sure Miles Browning should be hammered so hard, though. If he hadn't gotten those planes off early and if we hadn't knocked out 3 of the 4 Japanese carriers, the battle would have gone the other way. Look how effective Hiryu's counterattack (on Yorktown) was, and it was just one of the Japanese carriers.

I would like to see verification of his objection to lighting up Enterprise and Hornet for night-time landings and his disregard of aircrew safety after the first crucial day.

GOOD film, well done.
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Joe Black dropped by to say hello, today.
1 February 2020
As usually happens with cardiac moments I have learned it was just after I got up, as it had been for my first real heart attack 3 years ago.

(When that happened, I went and lay down on my back in bed and then - on the spur of the moment - on the brink of the abyss - reasoned that raising and laying my left arm up above me on the bed might straighten out the heart artery and let the blood flow again, which it apparently did, with the help of an aspirin. A half hour later a second attack came, I did the same thing, it subsided, and I fell asleep - happily to awaken. I almost forgot to tell me doctor about these, and when I did he became alarmed, tests verified the attacks, and - at no expense in Norway's wonderful national health care - I had an angiogram: a little pipe inserted in the artery. I had stopped my heart medicine for about a month, ergo this recent little episode this morning, apparently. And I have now just gotten back from one of my long but careful heart walks.)

In any case, my first thought this morning - again confronted with the possibility of dying and deserting my children - was this movie, which I had seen some years ago, long before the attacks.

It is very gradual - slow - and gentle and gentlemanly, as Hopkins&Pitt movies are, and its subject is one of the most basic to living creatures.

And it has an appropriately beautiful ending. HIGHLY recommended.

(And yes, I have seen Andre Rieux's excellent performance of Sir Anthony's similarly beautiful composition, And the Waltz Goes On.)
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The Crossing (2000 TV Movie)
Excellent, historically accurate depiction of a key moment in America's struggle for survival
29 December 2019
I think the "History through Film" high school class ratings badly distort the film's true quality and should be withdrawn. While it is good that kids are being taught to think critically, too often they come to think that means negatively. And they are growing up with fantasy films like Jurassic Park which dazzle with glitz, but really amount to little.

Jeff Daniels does another excellent job of humanly portraying a key American figure, like he portrayed Joshua Chamberlain in Gettysburg.

The story and bitterness about Hessians bayoneting surrendered Virginians in the back on Manhattan Island was something I hadn't remembered and/or realized, and that was an important educational point to get across. (I have a Hessian officer who stayed over here after the Revolution in my ancestry, by the way. The result of his scandalous liaison with a sheltered Quaker girl was the first name-bearer of my mother's family.)

Michael Mann's/Daniel Day-Lewis's Last of the Mohicans and Gettysburg are the 2 films about American history most people should see ... and in Mohicans' case *have* seen, I have discovered now being over here in Europe ... but The Crossing is close.

I liked the new Midway (2019) film - although it needs some scene/accuracy corrections which CGI can now enable - but The Crossing and Battle of Trenton was historically just as crucial to America and was made on an infinitely smaller budget, which is something young film makers should keep in mind.

Excellent film.
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Red Rose of Normandy (2011 Video)
Film supporters vs. many critics :-)
3 December 2019
This was an intriguing film to watch. I was amazed at all the T34/85s for the Russian Front scenes.

For the Western Front scenes, another Sherman or two would have been nice, but small unit actions were often exactly that.

I don't understand why the nurses weren't waving white flags to surrender and save themselves, although things were happening fast and people were dropping everywhere.

As to some guys being overweight, our GIs were not all perfect athletic specimens.

They should have stuck with the P-51s Mustangs and not tried to impersonate P-47 Thunderbolts with AT-6 Texan trainers. A Bridge Too Far made the similar poor choice.

All in all, not a bad film effort at all, although the Waffen-SS should not be shown in a favorable light, considering 2.SS PzDiv's massacre - 600 men, women, and children burned alive ... to death ... in the village church - of Oradour on 10Jun44.
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The Last King (2016)
Edge of your seat action and suspense.
14 September 2019
I'm American living over here in Norway for my younger children. Although a military historian, I had little knowledge of Norway's post-Viking history, and it's fascinating.

This chase movie puts you on the edge of your seat with the highspeed skiing, desperate personal combats, and with a cute little baby's life at risk.

And it showcase's Norway's beauty, even in winter. (I'm not a skier.)

This appears to have been filmed in the actual Nidaros Cathedral, still standing in Trondheim and where Norway's kings are still crowned.

Especially with the trauma of World War 2 and Norway's royal family refusing to submit to German occupation and control, most Norwegians are royalists, so the emotional impact of this film on Norwegian audiences must have been intense.

We Americans helped Princess Martha and the children - including present-day King Harald who was only 3 at the time - escape the Nazis in World War 2, and President Roosevelt even hosted them living in the White House for a few months. He was greatly impressed by the very intelligent Princess Martha, and she inspired his "Look to Norway" - for an example of a small victimized country fighting back - speech.

I strongly recommend this film.
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The Last Fling (1987 TV Movie)
GREAT romantic comedy. :-)
17 August 2019
Notice that there is no Goofs section for this film. What would be the point of it? :-)

John Ritter and bella Italian-American signorina Connie Sellecca were perfect for this film. John plays a divorce lawyer looking for The One and tells super-sexy predatory blonde SHANNON TWEED good-bye - that she's just not his type.

A cute scene in the movie is when his mom - worrying that he might be secretly gay - tries to set him up with an also tall and blonde & beautiful but very provincial and linguistically challenged Norwegian girl.

So a day or two later he's wandering around the zoo and encounters this BEAUTIFUL brunette and instantly falls in love with her. She's kind and promises she'll call him - not wanting to break his heart by telling him her wedding is in 8 days!

In the meantime, her boorish fiance - who has a good provider practical income but is picky around their apartment - decides to go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party last fling ... and when she telephones his hotel room, a girl answers.

SO she decides to have HER last fling and gives John a call, suddenly suggesting they go to her relatives' place in Acapulco and giving him a false name.

And then they fall in love, but she's gone the next morning, leaving a video telling him why she must leave and they mustn't see each other ever again.

Needless to say, Our Hero launches on his Quest to find her and save her from a loveless, practical marriage for their true love ... and it only gets funnier, crazier, and then happier with every scene. :-)

Actually, I had a similar experience with an (older) Italian-American girl 50 some years ago, albeit with a different outcome.

I was in Washington DC out-processing from West Point and walked into a government office building looking for a rest room. I passed an open door, and there was this BEAUTIFUL young Italian-looking (and indeed so) brunette leaning over a counter in an unbuttoned lab coat ... which did not conceal her beauty. (Think Monica Bellucci and Sophia Loren ... and Connie Sellecca ... or an equally beautiful blend of them all.)

To her startlement, I walked right in and we had a delightful conversation, and after her shift was over she took me to her apartment and showed me around, but nothing happened. (I was 18 and ... very shy. I think she was 21.) She finally said her roommate was coming, wanted me to leave before she arrived, and promised to meet me for lunch the next day.

And so I got a pass the next day to go downtown again, and we indeed met. She seemed extremely nervous and kept looking over her shoulder. Finally, she said that her family owed a Mafia family a lot of money, she was betrothed to the Mafia family's son, and if they found out then terrible things would happen to her and her family ... and we had to say good-bye. She was REALLY scared..

I said I understood, wished her all the best, and we parted in sweet sorrow.

I hope she is well and had many equally beautiful daughters.

About 35 years later, a Mafia son got another sweet and beautiful girl - although not for marriage - I felt/fell in love with, this time an Anglo girl.

However, The Last Fling has a much happier ending. :-)
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Depressing with too many questionable questions.
26 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
More than one person has wondered why this has such a high rating. I suspect it is ballot box stuffing by the studio's friends ... or bots ... which I have seen for other recent, poor movies.

Didn't Rachael and Deckard head up to Alaska at the conclusion of the original? What were they doing back in Los Angeles? Why would they have wanted to return??

At the end, how was Joe able to take Deckard to his daughter without Wallace stopping them?

Much cruelty and blood-letting.

I liked Olmos being in the film, so I'm upping it to a 2.

But it is a very depressing film showing a future from - in - Hell.

And I think there will be many more real humans left alive in 2049. 1984 wasn't in 1984, although we seem to be sliding into it now.
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Jason Bourne (I) (2016)
A fill-in for the series, maybe, but ...
23 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I still see The Bourne Supremacy as the best of the series by far, especially with its opening, very musically accompanied scene of Bourne jogging on the beach.

This film made the overall plot too routine: Bourne brought out of retirement by the past, another girlfriend getting killed by the bad guys, etc.

The finale's car chase scene disturbed me. Weren't there people ... families as well as couples ... in all those otherwise unrelated passenger cars destroyed?

And the surviving girl in this one turns out to be both ambitious and evil, personally taking out the previous administrator and blackmailing the DNI into making her CIA director.

A disturbing detail was CIA Dir Dewey threatening to have the one fellow's family murdered, if he told Bourne the truth about his father ... which the fellow did. It recalls the real-life "murder-suicides" of 9/11 whistleblower and former CIA officer Phillip Marshall and his teenage children and even their dog as well as the same of "The Gray State" whistleblowing film producer David Crowley, his pretty young wife, and their 5 year old daughter ... and their dog.

In sum, it portrays and seems to confirm the CIA as being a profoundly evil cut-throat Deep State bureaucratic jungle.
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Worth the swordfight scene alone, which beats Flynn and Rathbone in Captain Blood.
4 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Watching a captioned copy of the film, it states how the actors Pierce Brosnan and Toby Stephens were themselves into the intense (and very dangerous) swordfight scenes.

From fencing foils to sabers to BROADSWORDS and not in armor, but in a staid English club, even slashing fine painting prints.

And with broadswords, a miscue could have resulted in an actual decapitation! And the escalation of the anger indeed OUT OF CONTROL rage looked ... genuine ... and like it could have only one ending, until cool if not frigid Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) broke it up.

The previous lesbian insinuation between Miranda and swordswoman and dominetrix Verity - unforgettably played by uncredited Madonna, who should be in the first *IMDb* credits for this film - was a nicely degenerate British wrinkle.

I cannot recall a better swordfight scene in any film, including the battle of the champions in El Cid.

Then there is Halle Berre emerging from the Caribbean in a bikini even beating Ursula Andress's in Dr. No. On the other hand, she plays a cold-blooded killer agent which really isn't Halle.

More scenery of Iceland itself would have been appreciated, although the icebound environment was novel.

The opening North Korean scene was also great, as well as the Asian actors. The various vehicle chases at the end became repetitive, although the idea of drowning in a room was the stuff of nightmares.

It is a film to watch more than once, as I just have ... for the swordfight alone. :-)
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Savior (1998)
War inescapably being hell.
7 April 2019
Dennis Quaid still deserves an Oscar for his performance in this film. It wrenches you the viewer along with his character on the screen.

I love military and naval history - of World War 2, principally - but the innocent collateral civilian victims must be remembered, and war must be *confined* to history books (and games, like I design).

And in civil and insurgency wars, it is innocent civilians who suffer the worst.

Everyone has a duty to see this film just like they should see We Were Soldiers. It too will fill you with resolve to stop our species insanity.

I've seen the film once. I'm not sure I can watch it again.
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Helen of Troy (2003– )
A very interesting take, but a better film is still needed.
23 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
There were some things I liked very much about this film, but it is still not enough. Theseus - Stellen S. - abducting Helen ... then telling her (guiltily?) that her mother had committed suicide because she had been raped - nothing about Zeus posing as a swan to seduce Leda - and then refusing to deflower her ... the inference being that Helen was Theseus' daughter.

To avoid an internecine Greek war over her, Odysseus suggesting they cast their rings to see who would get this cursed woman for a wife, and Menelaus - who loves her and is eventually her forgiving salvation - winning her. (It would have been much better if historically wily Odysseus was shown cheating by planting M's ring in the spittoon.)

Rufus Sewell played Agamemnon perfectly ... desiring both Helen and supreme authority in Greece via a successful war on and sack of Troy. (Were they secret lovers? Was she his agent to go with Paris and give the Greeks casus belli against Troy? Not in this film.) And his face turning to stony horror at what he had done (to himself), sacrificing - murdering - his own joyfully loving daughter - at the behest of a presumably childless prophet - to inspire his aggressor army and open his road to war and supreme power.

The actor who played Paris was also perfect for the role, and Paris's return to the Trojan court ... over the justified fears of Cassandra and then Hector ... was well played.

As others have said, the central character in The Illiad was Achilles, but in this film it is Helen as a willful child at the mercy of her beauty and her desires who is the central character. Sienna Guillory is a a very pretty and sexy woman, but in a very modern way - not at all the classic beauty that actresses Rossana Podesta and Diane Kruger were/are.

And was Helen blonde as she is in the 1956, 2003, and 2004 movies? Or would an 18 year old actress as beautiful as Monica Bellucci be more accurate?

Menelaus putting her on nude display for his fellow kings and nobles serves an exhibitionist/exploitative purpose for the film's audience, but it was inconsistent with him wanting her for himself and not wanting to excite murderous competition, let alone an internal Greek war for her.

I didn't like how Paris' killing of Achilles was handled. I remember in the 1956 film him spectacularly dragging Hector's body around the city walls, until Paris killed him with an arrow into his heel fired from the parapets, which seemed much more epic. (The film's little detail about Paris becoming accurate firing his arrow from a horizontal bow was rather neat, though.)

Agamemnon's rape of Helen consummating the rape of Troy was consistent; however, Clytemenaestra suddenly appearing in Troy to avenge her sister (and daughter) and kill Agamemnon there (rather than back in Greece) was implausible, even if her use of the net to kill him is historically consistent.

In the finale the film redeems itself with Menelaus still in love with Helen and unable to kill her - enduring and accepting love triumphing in the end - and in that scene Sienna Guillory did excell, sympathetically.
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Red Sparrow (2018)
Demonizing the Russians again and turning girls into manhaters
20 January 2019
The more I think about this film, the more downright evil it appears to be.

Any young girl who sees this is going to be traumatized by it and just as likely turned into a manhater for the depiction of male manipulation and rape. It's traumatic even for adults and the sexual violence/sadism should have earned it an X.

Previously I wrote: Thinking about the violence, I've dropped this a notch. We have indeed seen that kind of brutal competitiveness in Olympic skating, but no nude beatings, that I can remember.

Jennifer seems built like a running back, with assets. I hope she has daughters.

She actually *looks* Russian, and not just her figure. Considering her character's situation, I thought her stoic acting was quite appropriate ... and very Russian in character.

And someone else has pointed out the advantages of floppy disks over sticks, as far as a shade more data security.

Jeremy Irons makes an excellent intelligence general.

I found the movie very long but suspenseful and it kept my interest. For sure, it's not a James Bond film.

As to which side now is a prison, that is in question. Election 2016 was a real populist American uprising, so apparently we Americans still have our freedom. After everything that has happened in Britain ... Iraq war fraud whistleblower Dr. David Kelly's July 2003 "suicide," the clumsy Salisbury "Russian novichok" caper, and now the revelations about British (government) "intelligence"'s misnomered Integrity Initiative seditiously trying to smear Labour's Jeremy Corbyn to be a Russian tool ... I am very concerned about once great Britain.

I do wonder if Jennifer's experience in Hollywood has been at all similar to a red sparrow. Ashley Judd would probably say hers was.

In summary, the film is long and anti-Russian and hideously violent and hateful.
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El Cid (1961)
A magnificent epic for our times.
3 January 2019
The battle between the champions is one of the great scenes in film history - and filmed on-site in Spain!

And once again today, the Christian and Muslim civilizations and cultures are in mortal combat, now here in Europe as well as the stirred up Mideast.

As depicted in this film, in Spain Muslim moderates allied with the Christians against the fundamentalist enemies of social and cultural progress - civilization - and eventually became assimilated, adding their rich intellectual and artistic talents and traditions to Christendom. But that was 1000 years ago, and we cannot waste time and blood on such strife now, which makes this film that much more vital and current.

Charlton Heston was superb for his role, but the film was about his struggle to reclaim both Jimena and Spain, and the analogy is clear and brilliant. Melania Trump reminds me strongly of Sophia Loren, by the way.

The report of Heston and Loren ... disliking ... each other explains that love/hate chemistry on the screen. Spanish women do tend to be ... impassioned.

As good as this and Ben Hur and Planet of the Apes are, the chivalric code - at least in Europe farther north - is even more strongly portrayed by Heston's The War Lord, which everyone should also see.
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Great film. I lost family members in India back then.
12 November 2018
I believe I was with my dad, when we went to a drive-in movie theater to see this. He was in Dacca East India with the USAAF during the war.

The scene midway through the film that still sears my mind's eyes is of the captured British officers and soldiers tied to posts and the Northwest tribesmen riding down the line to hurl lances into their chests, one after the other. As in the case of the shadow of naked Lucy strung up on a scaffold with Comanche arrows in her in The Searchers, I remember the scenes of the executions being much more graphic and at the moment of impact. Censorship is stupid.

On my mother's side, I lost 2 great great great granduncles in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 in the Cawnpore Massacre. British Indian Army Brigadier Alexander Jack - unfortunately not in command at Cawnpore - had engineered the fall of the heretofore unassailable mountaintop Fort Kangra. His younger brother Andrew, the baby of the family, was just ill-timedly visiting from Australia and reportedly died in screaming agony when a mutineer cannonball took off his legs.

And now we're all back ... still back ... in The Graveyard of Empires on the other side of the Khyber Pass. Strategic stupidity like that cannot be fictionalized.

Despite any shortcoming described by other viewers here, this is indeed a classic film well worth watching.
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Intriguing fantasizing but could have been much better.
4 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I am a 71 year old retired American librarian who lives over here in Norway for my very young Norwegian-American children. I am divorced and living alone like the principal character - a 51 year old Norwegian novelist - in the film. I now design wargames and have a very little supplemental income from that.

The film is described on its DVD cover as a comedy, apparently in the classical sense. At its start, his postman stops his rounds to have fish soup which the novelist makes well. (LOTS of excellent fish menu items here, of course, with the exception of fish pudding and lutefisk. :-/ :-) ) During the meal he sees visions of himself and his ex-wife in the adjacent living room arguing. He is still suffering from a former also-abusive marriage. He writes her into some of his novels. (Norwegians will read anything and enthuse about it, it seems.)

The novelist father is unexpectedly visited by his 19 or so daughter whom he hasn't seen for 2 years ... and her 2 pretty friends who think her strikingly homely father is attractive. ?? The girls mention that the brunette has just lost her father, and he expresses condolences. His daughter and the other blonde sleep in one room, the brunette - played by Norwegian film star of that time Tone Danielsen who, contrary to IMDb, is *not* the daughter - sleeps separately in another, and he sleeps in his own bedroom.

The girls are fascinated by his solitary life - although he has a circle of card-player friends - and how he raises chickens. His country cottage - very much like ones everywhere here - is idyllically situated on a lake or fjord, as is often the case, and he takes the girls fishing and joins them swimming. (If this was a fjord, that is more hazardous to do now, with great white sharks moving north and being sighted around here.)

We American guys have visions of blonde or at least VERY fair Scandinavian girls exercise-jogging naked through the woods every day - something which would be far too dangerous for them to do now, unhappily. (It is astonishing to see many dark-haired parents with tow-headed children at school events, although with so many foreign-born parents now, that is less so in the major cities.)

The film was made in 1965 in Scandinavia, and there was no reason at all swimming suits had to be worn in those scenes. :-)

And during one of those swimming sessions, he follows the brunette into a small inlet where she takes him by the hand and leads him up to a secluded spot ... but nothing happens.

Coincidentally, there are 3 young Norwegian guys out on a fast sailboat who notice the girls and ask them aboard. The brunette demurs but is encouraged by the novelist. The 3 guys visit the house, and the novelist's daughter - clearly unhappy - goes off into the secluded spot and suddenly amorously attacks the young Don Juan sailboat owner. Her father is suspicious, and the brunette laughs at him ... seductively.

Meanwhile, the novelist's ex-wife coincidentally shows up in the local village staying at the hotel. The couples later meet at the town dance hall, and the novelist dances with the girls ... finally slow-dancing with the brunette. The ex-wife is there, flirts with a couple local men, is getting drunk, and tries to get their daughter to pair up with one of the men, which naturally repulses the daughter. The novelist doesn't go back to the dance hall on a later - the last - night.

The brunette misses the novelist and comes back to the house where they embrace and kiss - he is now ready to consummate matters - but then she up and runs away, back to the dance. She is shown packing later.

He still has high hopes and sits at the table in his bedroom with a candle lighted and falls asleep. After some time - the candle is down - the door handle moves, and the (clothed) brunette starts to venture into his room, only to see him asleep, think better of it, and leave.

This storyline would have social approval: a beautiful and hot young girl - LOTS of those in Norway! - who has just lost her father is attracted to a lonely divorced man her father's age. However, despite the mutual attraction, fate dictates that nothing develops, and so she presumably will find a young man to marry and have a normal marriage and life.

And Norwegians do try very hard to be normal/conventional. (Some decades ago, I have been told, it was easy to get institutionalized if you weren't.) There has arisen in Scandinavia since Viking times something called janteloven - the Laws of Jante - which, from Wiki, is "a code of conduct known in Nordic countries that portrays not conforming, doing things out of the ordinary, or being overtly personally ambitious as unworthy and inappropriate."

As an American guy, I find the storyline to be completely unsatisfactory. First of all, if my daughter came to visit after such a long separation, I'd get out the family photos to share with her and her friends to relive happy memories. I'd also make sure to have some heart to heart walks and talks with her, which in the film the daughter clearly needed.

Then, when they were leaving, I'd make sure she understood she would always be welcome - especially if she now found herself in a family way - and extend that invitation to her friends ... especially the brunette ... as well.

I might mention here that his housekeeper was rather pretty and looked to be in her late 40s, and if she wasn't married or a samboer - living partner with someone - I would think he would have previously explored that possibility ... if he was at all human. (Scandinavians *are* very reserved, until they drink. I don't drink, and I'm not at all reserved. :-) )

And as for a much older man taking advantage of a younger girl, as long as they have had an honest talk about the realities ... numbers ... and she was still determined and serious ... to include children and a family, however long that - he - lasted ... well, I'm a Viking bent on conquest ... and colonization.

(When my younger daughter was born up in Trondheim, the obstetrician looked, very directly, at 63 year old me and evenly said, "Good genes." And all of us descendants of my mother's family are subjects of a longevity study - one of her sisters finally breaking 100 last year.)

It is a very intriguing film, at least - very Scandinavian, which brings me to the revealing moment/exchange in the middle of the film, which I almost forgot:

When she is talking with him and edging to becoming close to him emotionally - to entering his life - she asks him regarding the life he has, "It's enough?" And he answers, "It's enough." ... in the very Scandinavian self-denying sense ... declining her interest.

That would never be *my* answer.
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The Blue Max (1966)
One of the greatest films Hollywood has produced and with a Jerry Goldsmith score.
5 June 2016
I cannot stand churlish, amateur critics, and we have some here attempting to review this wonderful film, The Blue Max.

The protagonist of the film, Bruno Stachel, is indeed a sympathetic character. The film starts with him in a mud hole in a World War 1 No Man's Land surrounded by the dead, including newly killed comrades. Then he hears something in the heavens and looks up ... with wonder and a birth of hope ... to Jerry Goldsmith's beautiful music ... to see an aerial dogfight.

Stachel is lower class in monarchist, class-conscious Imperial Germany. He reappears as a new, barely trained pilot and is ridiculed upon his arrival by his aristocratic squadron mates for his father being a hotel clerk ... but Stachel is not at all intimidated. His squadron commander sees something special - specially lethal? - in him, as does the reigning squadron ace Willi Vogelmann.

Stachel readily takes to the aerial hunt, although seems indifferent to the death of the experienced pilot who accompanies him on his first mission, which is successful. Seeing talent, Vogelmann decides to mentor this young cobra.

As others have noted, the flying and dogfighting scenes are incredible. I read at the time that a Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte - German World War 1 flying service - veteran aloft in the camera plane got so excited he seemed to think it was real.

At a reception after Vogelmann's award of The Blue Max - Pour le Merite - medal ... Germany's highest ... by Willi's uncle *General* Vogelmann ... Stachel sees the general's very young trophy wife ... dazzlingly and very Germanly played by Ursula Andress, no less ... who doubles as Willi's mistress with aristocratic hedonism.

I might interject that I know someone whose mother came from German-Switzerland like Ursula and had exactly Ursula's beauty ... as well as many children, happily.

Stachel thus sets himself a twin goal: to get The Blue Max like Willi has and to get/steal the favors - lust - of the general's wife from Willi.

(Trying to post a quotation on IMDb is an exercise in frustrating impossibility!)

The real, crucial quote of the film is after Stachel shoots down - in full view of everyone on his base - a plane whose pilot has surrendered but whose badly wounded rear gunner revives and starts aiming his machine gun at Stachel ... which those on the ground cannot see.

Once landed, Stachel is angrily confronted by the base commander and fellow pilots for what they think is cold-blooded murder. Feeling falsely and cruelly charged, Stachel "turns," going back to the crashed British plane, cutting out its serial number from the fuselage fabric, throwing that at his commander's feet, and saying "Confirmed! It's a cruel world, Herr Hauptmann. You said so yourself!"

And Stachel then stalks off past his apoplectic commander, and things get more savage after that. Although!, after Stachel returns from a leave in Berlin, he seems to kindly reassure his commander that his wife is well ... that Stachel hasn't seduced *her* too! Thus, unlike a couple others in the film, he is *not* a monster and indeed has a later qualm of conscience that leads to his undoing.

Each of the actors was well-chosen for their parts. Fair-haired George Peppard played Stachel masterfully. James Mason showed how ruthless and evil an elite can be. Ursula vividly and passionately portrays a hot, beautiful, and selfish young countess, utterly shattered at the end by the consequence of what she has done.

And in contrast to the book by its title, the end of the film was indeed climactic finality.

I cannot praise this film enough. Everyone should see it.
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Alfred the Great (I) (1969)
Regardless of inaccuracies, a great film.
4 May 2016
I loved this film when it came out. The portrayals of Ivar the Boneless - actually Ragnar Lothbrok's son, elsewhere - the Dane berserker, of Alfred's chief housecarl, and the others were fascinating.

I liked the game of Fox and Geese between the kings.

The battle scenes were authentic and gripping. Alfred's personal struggle - he had wanted to be a priest and withdraw from the world, let alone women - was meaningful.

As an epic film, it ranks right up there with Jerry Bruckheimer's historically questioned but no less great film Arthur.

The other reviewer's mention of Leonard Maltin savagely panning the film reminded me of an unpleasant memory I have about it.

It is possible that Maltin dissed the film because of Michael York's unforgettable portrayal of Guthrum the Danish king. Guthrum explains the Viking ethos persuasively ... and seductively with his eye on Alfred's queen ... and contrasts it to the Christian ethic, which Alfred defends less forcefully.

I wanted to see it again, and I took along a pretty Swedish-American girl with me over to the Coronet Theater in Davenport IA for a Saturday matinée, for her to see and appreciate my Anglo-Saxon heritage.

By chance, the local synagogue youth groups came in. They were lively kids and full of fun, but once the movie started they began making really deprecating remarks about the film and what it showed.

Having watched films like Ben Hur and Ten Commandments with reverence and appreciation and been deeply moved by them, I did wonder how they would feel if someone had behaved like that during those - their - films. I had thought respect for ethnic heritage would and should be mutual. They were just kids, but I have never forgotten that.

In any case, it is a great film which should be out on DVD.
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Brilliant film - one of America's greatest and most historically descriptive ever.
2 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this film after checking it out from a video store one Friday night, and I watched it 3 times straight! I have always regretted not seeing it in the theater, where it must have been overawing.

It is amazing how many people around the world have seen and been awed by it as well ... and have had their understanding of the 1700s American frontier shaped by it. I have never read Cooper's book, and I doubt it would be up to this film version of it.

The various passions it depicts - especially the love stories - are amplified by its grippingly intense, pulsating music.

It does explain the basic, growing differences in attitudes and philosophies of British-American colonists and British military officers and politicians at that time.

There are flaws - like historically inaccurate contact-exploding shells hitting Ft. William Henry - presumably for dramatic effect - but they can and should be forgiven.

Madeleine Stowe's luminous intelligence and sensitivity/sexuality spotlight Cora's character. It should be noted that neither actor had to remove her/his clothes to make the love scene torrid.

I prefer the original studio cut which includes 3 essential items: Hawkeye telling the Major he thinks they will someday have a serious disagreement, Hawkeye cockily asking the Major - pointing his pistol at H. from the other canoe - if he has nothing better to do on the lake today, and the Clannad lovesong impassioning the heroes' pursuit of Magua and his band with the captured girls and Major.

However, the director's cut version I also have does include the Major's well-commanded action outside the fort's walls - a diversion from the courier starting off elsewhere - ordered by Col. Munro in the film. It also shows a bit more of the science of 1700s siegecraft and military engineering, which the studio cut should have had.

Wes Studi's Magua is one of the great villains in film history, but even Magua is shown as human, albeit so deeply embittered. (Shocked at Alice's apparent intent to fall to her death, even he relents from killing her and wants her to live ... only to be rejected.)

And Russell Means - whom I had not liked after the Wounded Knee Incident of 1973 - was a strong father figure worthy of respect.

I cannot understand why anyone would down-rate this magnificent film.

By the way, the sister of one of my great (great, x?) grandfathers, Susannah Willard Johnson, was captured for ransom along with her entire family by Indians allied to the French around this time. (Mercifully and miraculously they all survived, even her baby christened Captive, born and allowed to survive on the trail up north to Canada.) Her Narrative is an historically important piece of American literature.

And I grew up in Rock Island Illinois, which was the site of Saukenauk, the capital village of the Sauk and Fox Indians, mentioned as rivals by Magua to the Sachem at the climax of the film. (Many years later, it was "the British Band" of Sauk War Chief Black Hawk that crossed back across the Mississippi from Ft. Madison to raid and campaign up through northern Illinois into Wisconsin: the Black Hawk War of 1832.) My ancestor, a pensioned British 1815 Napoleonic war veteran, survivor of the British Legion with Bolivar in Venezuela, and Scottish soldier of fortune, arrived in Rock Island in 1830 and is buried there.

Lou Coatney
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A ruthless spy impeded by love.
17 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the greatest and most passionate World War 2 and/or spy movies ever made, and it is so British! :-)

German spy Faber (superbly played by the ever-errant Canadian actor Donald Sutherland) was a nonconforming discipline problem as a naval cadet and so became an intelligence officer for (anti-Hitler) Admiral Canaris's Abwehr agency. Planted in England and working in transportation ... and not young enough to be conscripted ... he is in perfect position to monitor British troop and equipment strengths and movements.

However, his cover is blown when his not unattractive landlady discovers him tapping out a message to home base, and he bloodily dispatches her with his stiletto "needle," evidencing a cold, calculated ruthlessness which then puts every viewer on the edge of his/her seat every time Faber is in desperate circumstances and around any potential victim. He later even kills a fellow German spy - a young courier - to prevent the latter from being captured and identifying him and his mission, directly ordered by Hitler.

Only Faber is trusted by Hitler to find out if the famous and feared U.S. General Patton's First Army Group is real or a mere diversion, to threaten a D-Day landing directly across the English Channel at Pas de Calais. Hitler intuits that Normandy will be the real landing site instead, and he needs proof to goad his generals into re-focusing German forces down there.

Once Faber discovers the truth about FAG, he must get the information radioed or in person back to Hitler, but MI6 - led by veteran actor Ian Bannen's Godliman - is closing in on him, and he flees north, eventually shipwrecked on a beautifully filmed island and given shelter by the bitterly hateful, unfulfilled former Royal Air Force fighter pilot and legless amputee David (grimly played by Christopher Cazenove) and his little family.

But totally complicating everything is David's voluptuous, sweet, spurned, and thus emotionally and sexually repressed and desperate young wife, Lucy. Then too, there is their little boy who loves and respects his daddy as well as his mommy, even if his parents are in such unhappy turmoil.

Moved out of his own emotional shell - cell - by the girl's unhappiness, Faber suddenly opens up as a human being and gives Lucy the sympathy and affection ... and sexual relief ... she craves. And so just as suddenly and irresistibly they fall deeply in love with each other.

(Kate Nelligan's remarkably perfect beauties were fully displayed in a later BBC TV series, the title of which I forget. Sorry.)

Sensing what has happened intensifies David's suspicions about their guest, and David finally discovers Faber's true identity and intentions. They get into a life-and-death struggle on the edge of a cliff - David wanting revenge for Faber's betrayal of his hospitality and to stop Faber's intelligence mission and Faber wanting to liberate Lucy from her domestic hell ... and for himself.

This battle between a ruthless spy and a determined, patriotic amputee revives Faber's ruthlessness, and Lucy soon finds out what has happened. But to save herself and her child she must fake love and sexual ardor with him - submit and essentially prostitute herself to this unmasked monster who has murdered her husband - for fear of him killing her and her little boy. This is a scene of unsurpassed horror ... and a disturbing kind of eroticism.

The climax of the film is the struggle by Lucy to save herself, her little boy - and (in loyalty to David as well) save D-Day and the Allies by somehow stopping Faber from escaping to a waiting U-boat to complete his mission. And Faber MUST get to that U-boat, regardless of any love or sympathy he has felt for Lucy.

The film's climax is right down to the sea and absolutely rending.
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GREAT Northern European ethnic history film ... and no comedy.
7 January 2016
This is a screen adaptation of Michael Crichton's fictional melding of the legend of Beowulf and the journal of the Arab visitor to earliest Viking Age Scandinavia, Ahmad ibn Fadlān ibn al-Abbās ibn Rāšid ibn Hammād.

Antonio Banderas did an excellent job as the lead character, ibn Fadlan/"eben." The explanation of Grendel and his mother ... who looked like a teenage actress, actually ... is more plausible than ... but not as good as ... the legend. The depiction of the Vikings' lifestyle remains true to idb Fadlan's writings. The sense of honor and humor shows a noble people living in and dealing with a harsh, primitive environment and the resulting society.

The depiction of Beowulf is powerful and complimentary. He doesn't say much, but every word has impact.

The sympathetic treatment of Islam is intriguing. Scandinavia is right now trying to reconcile Muslim immigrants with indigenous Christians and nonbelievers in religion. The outcome of this is ... problematic, as the 2011 terrorist attack by one disaffected young Norwegian male here in Norway evidenced.

Every young (or old) person of the Northern European heritage should see ... and consider ... this film.
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One of the most disturbing films I have ever seen.
28 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I remember a friend in the Army telling me about his father being an American GI based in Northern Ireland before D-Day. One cold day, a beautiful, uncoated Northern Irish girl walked by his father out onto a long quay very purposely. He soon realized she was intending to throw herself off the end of it into the cold North Atlantic ... to her death ... unless someone stopped her. Maybe she had betrayed a British husband or fiancé off serving somewhere and was pregnant. Maybe she was in remorse because he had been killed. Maybe she had been raped.

He didn't know, and he didn't care. He let her walk on out to her cold, lonely death. He figured - *rationalized* - that so many people were dying in the war ... that he very likely would soon be dead in it ... that someone who didn't want to live didn't deserve to. (*I* would have gone running after her to stop her. Maybe she would have even given herself to me in gratitude. Regardless, as a guy I would have had and felt an obligation to try to stop her.)

I didn't express to my buddy my horror at and contempt for his father, but I could tell his father's story - coldness - had affected him ... too.

A Soldier's Tale is so unique and hardhitting, I wonder if it too is based on a true story. Over here in Norway, Norwegian military personnel are drilled in the seriousness of the moral and legal responsibility for taking human life - which I don't remember from my own training as a volunteer draftee in the (U.S.) Army, Jan67-Jan69.

In World War 2 most soldiers were not professionals but soon had life and death power over the enemy ... and others ... nonetheless and got the thrill of that kind of power. This seems apparent in the film.

By the way, I don't think the film is any allegory of the Western Allies: Britain and the U.S. liberating and protecting Occupied France, judging by the outcome.

Indeed, you are left with the disturbing question of whether Byrne's soldier was an angel or a monster ... and the increasingly disturbing realization he was the latter ... regardless of any "humane" intentions he may have thought he had.

Gabriel Byrne was the perfect actor for this: thoughtful, deep, quiet, and shockingly unexpected. He is an historically great actor - fully equal to Olivier, Guinness, or any of the others but in his own original style.

The one time I saw the film it made me very upset - even angry - and I think it was intended to do exactly this, to force us viewers to think morally and draw our own difficult judgments.
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Barcelona (1994)
A great film that I have remembered for 20 years
23 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
People either like or hate this film, it seems.

I was intrigued. Here you have 2 cousins encountering each other ... and some beautiful Spanish girls ... in beautiful Red Barcelona. Ted seems to need a rationale for everything including love and sex, although he is assured by cousin and girls that love isn't necessarily necessary.

Fred is a spontaneous young U.S. Navy officer mis-missioned to prepare a Barcelona port call for the 6th Fleet, while resident leftists in Barcelona are ready and eager to take offense at anything he says which they can.

There is tension between them over something Ted still accuses Fred of doing I forget what, but it's a lifelong grudge - when they were kids.

The very political Barcelona situation and crisis revolves around an ant analogy that has to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.

Meanwhile, the camera periodically cuts away to a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier out in the Mediterranean, patrolling to ensure Middle Sea stability and peace.

Eventually, the hottest girl turns out to be unfaithful, a thief and possible a drug addict, while a hitherto unnoticed girl throws herself at the foot of Fred's hospital bed, desperately attempting to pray him back from death - a very overlooked and significant scene.

The outcome is as droll as the rest of the film and leaves you with a good, uplifted feeling about and hope for life and being an American.

It is a film you will think about for years ... if you like to think.
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