May 262016
Nine Reasons to Watch Peaky Blinders

Season Three of Peaky Blinders is available on Netflix starting May 31. I am a huge fan of the show, but I will not review it, or at least not anytime soon, so here are nine reasons to watch Peaky Blinders. Set in Birmingham, England in 1919, a year after the end of WWI, the series presents the expansion of the Peaky Blinders, run by the Shelby family. Read More…

Jan 092014
Six historical fiction series that should be adapted as television shows.

Since the new BBC show The White Queen is adapted from the series The Cousins’ War by Philippa Gregory, and another series, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, will also become a series on Starz, I have prepared a list of historical fiction series that are screaming to be adapted as television shows.
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Nov 212013
Nine Korean War Movies Worth Watching

Aptly described as the Forgotten War, the Korean War (1950-1953) has been overshadowed by the Vietnam War (1955-1975). A little more than twenty movies were made by the United States, the vast majority came out during the 1950s, and most were forgettable. However, a few were good, and South Korean filmmakers have produced several excellent films during the past decade. So, here are nine films on the Korean War worth watching. Read More…

Jul 042013
Poll: Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger-misunderstood artist or racist superstar?

POLL: There has been a great deal of hoopla over Johnny Depp playing Tonto, a Native American, in Disney’s new Lone Ranger film. However, it is unfair to focus on this single role without taking Depp’s career into account. He is playing an Indian because he has a good working relationship with Gore Verbinski, the director of the film, and because the movies where Depp plays an outrageously dressed character earn much, much, much more money than the movies where he simply acts. Depp’s breakout role was Edward Scissorhands (1990), and most of his collaborations with his favorite director, Tim Burton, have involved him wearing elaborate costumes. Furthermore, the first Pirates of the Caribbean was an unexpected blockbuster, and his choice of roles has changed dramatically since then. Aside from three more Pirates movies, with number five slated for 2015, Depp has made Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Alice in Wonderland (2010), and Dark Shadows (2012) for Tim Burton, all of which required enough make-up to fill a tanker truck. Playing Tonto in The Lone Ranger is nothing more than a logical progression.

Take the poll and decide whether Depp is simply a misunderstood artist or a cynical, insensitive superstar fixated on the size of his paycheck. Read More…

May 022013
"Why is Cinco de Mayo a holiday?" Or how has Hollywood treated the Franco-Mexican War?

Cinco de Mayo, or May 5, is a Mexican holiday that receives little attention in Mexico but is an important holiday for the Mexican-American community. The holiday celebrates a Mexican victory at Puebla against French invaders, which begs the question, why did France invade Mexico in the first place?

The French Intervention in Mexico (1861-1867) is one of the stranger footnotes in history. Employing a flimsy excuse, Napoleon III, the nephew of Napoleon, invaded Mexico, stage-managed a referendum in favor of switching from a republic to a monarchy, and placed Archduke Maximilian, the brother of Emperor Franz Josef of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on the throne. The French army defeated the Mexican army, but Maximilian’s support was limited to the conservative elite, while the countryside was dominated by Juaristas, guerrillas loyal to President Benito Juarez. After the fall of the Confederacy and the end of the American Civil War (1861-1865), the victorious Union would not tolerate a French presence on its southern border. Blatant pressure convinced the French to return home, enabling Juarez to regain control of Mexico. When the Juaristas finally captured Maximilian, they placed him on trial and executed him, so the brother of one of the most powerful men in the world died in front of a firing squad, like the thousands of Juaristas who had been executed in his name. Read More…

Dec 272012
How has Hollywood treated the War of 1812?

2012 is the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, which has been ignored by the United States and Britain, although the Canadian government has organized a series of commemorative events. Angered that the British Navy boarded American ships to press British citizens to serve in the navy against Napoleon and believing that the British armed the Indian tribes who were resisting the settlers pouring into their lands, the United States declared war on Britain in June 1812 and invaded Canada that fall. Three years later, Washington had been burned and a British army had been slaughtered near New Orleans but both sides were exhausted, so they agreed to end the war with the original borders.
Hollywood has treated the war badly. Five movies were made on the war between 1938 and 1958, and then Hollywood forgot about the War of 1812. Fittingly, the last movie was a remake of the first. The first is probably the best, but that is not saying much, since none of them are very good. Read More…

Dec 062012
How has Hollywood treated Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR)?

Regardless of whether one has a positive or negative view of him, FDR was a pivotal president. However, he has received little attention from Hollywood. Aside from Sunrise at Campobello, which examined his sudden attack of polio when he was still a rising politician, FDR has been relegated to cameo appearances. Clearly there is a need for a more in-depth look at FDR, so Hyde Park on the Hudson will be interesting. Hyde Park presents the weekend when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed at FDR’s private estate after attending the 1939 New York World’s Fair as part of a goodwill tour. The visit itself was ceremonial, intended mainly to deepen American sympathy for the British, in particular to oppose isolationist sentiment, but the experience enabled FDR to forge closer relations with the British government. More important, the movie presents FDR at his prime.
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Nov 152012
How has Hollywood treated Abraham Lincoln?

Since Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s big-budget look at Abraham Lincoln, opens in theatres tomorrow, it would be a good idea to examine how the sixteenth president has been handled by Hollywood over the years. Possibly the greatest American president, Abraham Lincoln has been the subject of a number of movies, but he has received little attention during the past few decades.
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Oct 252012
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Despite huge potential, the actual movie was astonishingly unimaginative. Bursting with countless elaborate and ridiculously expensive action scenes where humans routinely make death-defying acrobatics, the film numbs the mind into submission. To be honest, the number of missed opportunities is simply depressing. Read More…

Feb 282011
True Grit (1969) vs True Grit (2010)

I realize that I am probably in the minority but I prefer Henry Hathaway’s version of True Grit to the Coen Brothers’ version. What is especially odd is that I am a big fan of the Coen Brothers and I have never really been that impressed by Hathaway. The key factor is undoubtedly John Wayne’s performance. Wayne had done Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1966), which were basically two versions of the same story, with Howard Hawks, and the best role in each movie was the drunk. Despite Wayne’s lobbying for that role in each movie, Hawks had decided to play it safe and go with renowned drunkards Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum, leaving Wayne to be the straight man. Read More…

Feb 252011
Rome vs The Tudors

Whenever I mention that I have a web site that reviews historical movies, the conversation inevitably turns to the recent crop of historical series put out by HBO, Showtime and AMC. After debating whether Band of Brothers is grimmer than The Pacific, the odds are that the next topic will be why The Tudors is not as good as Rome. My fervent defence of The Tudors usually produces an expression of disbelief, so clearly there is a need to set the matter straight. Rome is the more entertaining series but The Tudors is by far the more important series. Read More…