Nov 102016
 
Machine Gun Kelly

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Playing Machine Gun Kelly, a famous bank robber and kidnapper during the Public Enemies Era, Charles Bronson has his first leading role. Aside from the title character, all of the other characters are fictional. As is almost the entire movie. An incredibly anti-crime movie, every single one of the criminals is repulsive. Populated by nasty characters, it is simply an unpleasant movie. Read More…

May 052016
 
Heroes of the Alamo

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Heroes of the Alamo presents the growing tension between the American immigrants in Mexico and the Mexican government that eventually led to the Texan Revolution. Unlike most films on the Alamo, it focuses on the Dickinson family, rather than Davy Crockett or Jim Bowie. Made in 1937, the acting is stilted, as if the actors have not adapted to sound. Even for the time, this is horrible, almost incompetent. Read More…

Apr 282016
 
G-Men

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Attorney James “Brick” Davis (James Cagney) joins the Department of Justice after his friend is shot from behind while arresting a counterfeiter, and becomes involved in the FBI’s campaign against a gang that has committed a wave of bank robberies. The film presents several key events of the Public Enemies Era but does not include any of the actual Public Enemies. Intended to reassure the public, a single gang is responsible for the entire crime wave. G-Men was clearly designed as an apology for Warner Brothers’ previous gangster films, which had caused it to be known as the gangster studio. While the intent is laudable, the film lacks energy, and is only for Cagney fans. Read More…

Sep 032015
 
Gallipoli

Rating: ★★★★☆
Gallipoli is actually two movies: a buddy movie that takes place in Australia during the early months of WWI, and the Gallipoli Offensive, which was too complex to be explained in the last third of the film. Examining the loss of innocence in Australia during WWI, Gallipoli is not a movie with beautifully choreographed battles or gritty action scenes, just a brutal look at men sent to die far from their homes in a pointless campaign. Read More…

Jun 262014
 
Flyboys

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Flyboys gets most of the facts right, so viewers will actually learn a little about the war. However, the movie is not about the real Lafayette Escadrille, it is just a generic WWI aviation film that happens to feature Americans fighting for France. The film is gorgeous, and the producers clearly loved flying, but the amazing aerial footage is not matched by the cliché-ridden screenplay. Read More…

Dec 192013
 
Forty Thousand Horsemen

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Forty Thousand Horsemen, the story of the Australia Light Horse during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in WWI is wartime propaganda, but even so, it is excessive. The movie consists of fun-loving Australians taking advantage of local natives who are not too bright, and riding across endless stretches of desert to fight Turks who are actually decent but are ruled by tyrannical German warlords, while Waltzing Matilda is played repeatedly. Told through the viewpoint of the soldiers, the viewer will learn little about the war itself. The climatic charge is adequate, but does not compare to the charge in The Lighthorsemen (1987). In fact, there is no reason to watch this movie, unless you are a completist like me. Everyone else should spare themselves the boredom and watch The Lighthorsemen. Read More…

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Nov 072013
 
Lafayette Escadrille

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Thad Walker (Tab Hunter), a troubled young American enlists in the Lafayette Escadrile, a squadron of volunteer American fighter pilots who fought for France during WWI. Director William Wellman had been given a smaller budget than he had wanted, so the only aerial combat takes place in the last five minutes. Instead, the movie focuses on the depressingly dull romance between Walker, a fugitive from justice with a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder, and Renee Beaulieu (Etchika Choureau), a reformed prostitute. A weird mash-up of Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and the Andy Hardy movies, I kept expecting Mickey Rooney to show up and say “hey guys, let’s put on a show.” The dream project of Wellman, who had actually flown with the Lafayette Corps during the war, studio interference ruined the film. Incensed by the changes forced onto the final version, Wellman had his name removed as producer. Read More…

Aug 222013
 
MASH

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
An important part of New Hollywood, MASH may have been radical at the time, but it does not hold up well today. The story of three hell-raising doctors in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, it spawned the long-running television show M*A*S*H (1972-1983). Unfortunately, viewers will not even learn about the Korean War since director Robert Altman ensured that there were no references to the Korean War because he wanted viewers to think of the then-current Vietnam War. Famous at its release as a daring anti-war comedy, it has not aged well, since it is simply an annoying, homophobic, misogynist film where a football game is all that matters. Read More…

May 162013
 
Gangster Squad

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Gangster Squad’s presentation of Mickey Cohen as a vicious gangster who rules over the city of Los Angeles until a small band of brave policemen end his reign of terror has nothing to do with reality. Extremely inaccurate, the movie is a deliberate falsification of the situation. Worse, it is not entertaining. Filled with exciting car chases in the desert and exciting shootouts in a hotel, the movie should be exciting but the action scenes are bland and formulaic, so it is cartoonish like 1980′s G.I. Joe cartoonish, but not as good. It will take quite some time to list just the major inaccuracies in this film, so you might want to go to the bathroom first. Read More…

Mar 212013
 
Major Dundee

Rating: ★★★½☆
Near the end of the American Civil War, the commander of a Union prison recruits a mix of civilians, Confederate prisoners and Union troops to hunt down a band of Apache, pursuing them into Mexico, which was occupied by a French army struggling to place an Austrian prince on the throne. As the search extends into weeks and then months, the men gradually shed all traces of civilization.
Described as Moby Dick on horseback, the film became famous for director Sam Peckinpah’s mix of self-destructive behavior and brilliance. Clashing with the executives who ran the studio, the film was taken away from Peckinpah in the editing stage and a drastically shorter version was released, which was ridiculed by critics and ignored by movie-goers. Although no one knew it at the time, it was a dress rehearsal for The Wild Bunch, but it is still an impressive accomplishment on its own. Major Dundee is one of those movies where a film of the behind-the-scenes action would probably be as interesting as the final result. A restored version, based on a cut made by producer Jerry Bresler, was made in 2005, which provides a more coherent story, while revealing the movie’s flaws. Despite the flaws, it bursts with passion and brilliance. Read More…

Feb 282013
 
MacArthur

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Adopting a relatively even-handed approach, the movie covers MacArthur’s career throughout WWII, the American occupation of Japan and the Korean War. While the story does show MacArthur’s self-fixation and growing paranoia, it skips over many of his mistakes because they would have required a much, much, much longer movie. Unfortunately, the limited budget meant that the movie was filmed in the United States, not Asia. Worse, most of the actors are second-rate, and the low budget meant that the battle scenes looked like they were filmed on a studio lot. Although the film looks like an ABC movie of the week in the early 1980s, it is the only full-length presentation of a controversial and extremely influential American general. Read More…

Feb 212013
 
Lincoln

Rating: ★★★★☆
Balancing the conflicting needs of the radical and conservative factions of the Republican Party, President Abraham Lincoln struggles to convince enough Democrats to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment, which will abolish slavery. The war is almost over, so Lincoln must deal with Confederate negotiators, who hope to win peace and keep slavery, aware that the North is weary of war. Determined to see that the Thirteenth Amendment passes, Lincoln insists that all means short of the exchange of money be employed to persuade Democrats to vote for the amendment. The film is a stunning recreation of the real Lincoln’s world. While this is not the definitive movie about the long road to freedom for blacks in the United States, it is the definitive movie about Abraham Lincoln.
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Jan 312013
 
Inchon

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Numerous film critics have ranked Inchon as one of the worst movies ever made. Inchon is not horrible, but it is painful. Set during early days of the Korean War, the movie is an epic tribute to General Douglas MacArthur. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church and main financial backer of the film, later stated publicly that he wanted the movie to portray MacArthur and his love of God, as well as his battle against tyranny and communism. He succeeded. Unsurprisingly, director Terrence Young blamed the final mess on the producers’ interference. Probably best-known as the director of the first two films in the Bond series, Terrence Young’s career had started to decline. It did not bounce back after Inchon. Read More…

Nov 292012
 
Hell's Angels

Rating: ★★★½☆
Set in WWI, it is a surprisingly dark story, where the love interest is a bad girl who has no interest in becoming a good girl, and the never-do-well brother can not be redeemed. The superb technical accomplishments more than compensate for the unbearable overacting, including a minute-long death scene for one of the brothers. The mix of directors and the haphazard transfer from silent to sound resulted in a strange movie, but a very good strange movie that is worth watching.
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Nov 012012
 
Juarez

Rating: ★★★½☆
A solid introduction to the French Intervention in Mexico, a relatively unknown episode in history when France tried to turn Mexico into a puppet state, Juarez presents the basic chronology, but is limited by the decision to have Paul Muni’s Juarez single-handedly evict the invaders. Read More…

Mar 142012
 
Kansas Raiders

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Silly, inaccurate and boring, weighed down by plodding direction and lame dialogue, Kansas Raiders (1950), a movie about Jesse James riding with William Quantrill during the American Civil War, is just bad, one of those movies that you simply want to end. Read More…

Jan 302012
 
J. Edgar

Rating: ★★½☆☆

J. Edgar is a touching movie about gay lovers when the idea of gay rights did not exist, but the love story takes precedence over the story of a paranoid, narrow-minded bureaucrat who believed that his own patriotism was the ideal and anyone who did not meet his standards was a threat to the nation. Read More…

Aug 242011
 
John Paul Jones

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Although John Paul Jones (1959) gets the basic facts right, Robert Stack’s portrayal of the famous captain in the rebel navy during the American Revolution is a two-dimensional stock hero who has John Paul Jones’ bravery but otherwise bears little resemblance to the real man. Read More…

Jun 082010
 
I Shot Jesse James

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
I Shot Jesse James (1949) is a noirish take on the fate of Bob Ford after he kills his best friend to win a pardon and marry his girlfriend. Focused more on showing that it was impossible for Ford to live with the guilt, historical accuracy fades in and out of the film. Read More…