Feb 072013
 
They Were Expendable

Rating: ★★★½☆
Having seen WWII firsthand, including the Battle of Midway and the Normandy invasion, director John Ford was determined that his first post-war film would show the stark truth of the failed defence of the Philippines in 1942. Although set in the Philippines, much of the movie takes place in shadowy interiors as the Japanese siege of Bataan gradually tightens. The movie may appear unbearably wholesome to modern viewers but it showed post-war audiences the hard choices and sacrifices that had been made early in the war. Based on the real-life exploits of Lieutenant John Bulkeley, commander of a PT squadron in the Philippines, Bulkeley himself was surprised by the authentic feel of the movie. Read More…

Jan 032013
 
The Outlaw

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
The Outlaw (1943) presents the rivalry between Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday, which was a figment of the screenwriter’s imagination. The lack of historical accuracy did not trouble producer/director Howard Hughes, since he was far more interested in co-star Jane Russell’s remarkable bosom. Hughes wanted a movie with sex and he made one. The first movie to defy the Production Code, it took two years of cuts and revisions to satisfy the censors. Even so, the film attracted so much attention that the censors banned it after a week in 1943, and it only returned to theatres three years later, where it was a huge success. For those interested in cinema history, the movie is worth watching. Read More…

Nov 222012
 
War Horse

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Albert Narracott bonds with the thoroughbred horse bought by his father to serve as the family’s plow horse for their farm. Albert is heartbroken when his father sells the horse to a British cavalry captain at the beginning of WWI, and eventually enlists in order to be reunited with his friend. Although it is primarily a movie about a horse and his human, there are several superb battlefield scenes. Unfortunately, there is also far too much melodrama.
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Oct 042012
 
Young Mr. Lincoln

Rating: ★★★½☆
The movie presents Abraham Lincoln’s first major case as a young lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, where he defends two young strangers accused of murdering a popular deputy. Director John Ford’s first collaboration with Henry Fonda, they would work together again on Drums Along the Mohawk and Grapes of Wrath. A touching movie with excellent court-room scenes, Fonda’s Lincoln employs a simple manner and sharp wit to win the sympathy of the jury, and proves to be a formidable cross-examiner. Despite a slow start, Fonda captures the real Lincoln’s mix of self-depreciating humor and belief in people’s better nature. Read More…

Sep 202012
 
The Tall Target

Rating: ★★★★☆
Combining a great mystery with superb historical accuracy, The Tall Target (1951) uses the Baltimore Plot, a suspected conspiracy to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln during a stop in Baltimore, to illustrate the tension in the United States as the nation found itself on the verge of civil war. Read More…

Mar 012012
 
Viva Zapata!

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Although it is a compressed version of the Mexican Revolution, and John Steinbeck’s script tries too hard to make the revolution stand in for the Russian Revolution, Viva Zapata (1952) is one of the better movies on the Mexican revolution. Read More…

Jun 202010
 
The Untouchables

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
The Untouchables (1987) is a cliche-ridden travesty that gives Treasury agent Elliot Ness all the credit for bringing down Chicago ganglord Al Capone during Prohibition, ignoring the efforts of the IRS agents, state prosecutors, judges and brave informants who actually did all the work. Read More…

Nov 122009
 
The Long Riders

Rating: ★★★★☆
There are many movies on Jesse James. This is probably the best. Definitely the most accurate, since it captures the clannish environment and deep resentment against the North in Missouri after the American Civil War. Read More…