Jul 052018
 
Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Initially, three episodes that were shown as the Disney television miniseries Davy Crockett, the movie presents Crockett as a frontiersman, congressman and one of the defenders of the Alamo. Honestly, I was surprised, it’s not bad. Better than most movies on the Alamo, and it shows the full scope of Crockett’s eventful life. Read More…

May 312018
 
Dunkirk

Rating: ★★½☆☆
The portrayal of the evacuation of more than three hundred thousand British soldiers from Dunkirk, France across the Channel back to England, Dunkirk is a disappointment, despite an excellent start. Essentially forty minutes of story shown three times from different perspectives, the film’s main weakness is that it takes a script suitable for a television episode and transforms it into a movie by simply showing the same scenes over and over. Director Christopher Nolan had a vision of a waking nightmare, a mix of terror and confusion. Since he wrote the screenplay and directed the film, he succeeded in transferring his vision from his mind to the screen. As a work of art, that is an admirable achievement. As a portrayal of a key moment in WWII, it is less successful. Read More…

May 172018
 
Godfather Mendoza

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Don Rosalio Mendoza prospers during the Mexican Revolution by remaining friends with both the Zapatistas and the federal forces. Although he has no interest in either side, and is determined to ensure the continued existence of his hacienda by lavishly entertaining both sides, he becomes close friends with a Zapatista general, who serves as his son’s godfather. As the fighting continues, Mendoza fears for the safety of his wife and son, and plans to move to Mexico City, but finds himself faced with a horrible choice. Read More…

May 102018
 
Prisoner 13

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
A film about a corrupt military officer, who accepts a bribe to release a revolutionary, but unknowingly arranges for his long-lost son to to take the prisoner’s place, Prisoner 13 is essentially a morality play due to the twist ending. While the film does not say much about the Mexican Revolution, it is interesting and must have been quite daring for the time. Given the grim atmosphere, it is recommended for fans of Pre-code film and film buffs but not the average viewer. Read More…

Apr 262018
 
Ironclad

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Viewers of Ironclad may believe that the film is about the fight between King John, who wished to reclaim the absolute power that had been taken from him when he had been forced to sign the Magna Carta, and the barons, who were fighting to preserve the rights of the common people and the nation itself. Cynics may complain that the barons were simply concerned with their own rights, not the rights of the smelly peasants. However, the film is really the struggle of the sex-starved young wife of the castle’s lord to persuade a Templar knight to break his vow of celibacy and satisfy her carnal needs. The story of a leader who gathers a group of disillusioned warriors, preferably seven, to defend a place against huge odds is not new in film history, and Ironclad is not a notable addition to the record. Filled with a cast of solid character actors who have all done better work, the film needed a better script. Still, it is relatively enjoyable and relatively accurate. Read More…

Apr 192018
 
The Torch

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Maria Dolores, a wealthy young woman, is preparing for her wedding when the town is occupied by rebels. A chance encounter with Maria Dolores causes the rebel general to fall in love with her, attracted equally by her beauty and her temper. A mix between Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew and Morocco, viewers won’t learn much about the Mexican Revolution but it is entertaining. Read More…

Apr 122018
 
And Starring Pancho Villa As Himself

Rating: ★★★½☆
Forced to buy weapons on the black market by President Woodrow Wilson’s embargo, Pancho Villa (Antonio Banderas) sells exclusive rights to film his battles against President Victoriano Huerta to Mutual Studios. Although the movie may seem the feverish idea of a screenwriter who is a fan of both early Hollywood and the Mexican Revolution, and tried to jam two unrelated scripts together, it is based on real events. As a loving tribute to the silent film era, it is a success. While the portrayal of Pancho Villa at the height of his power is effective, the film limits itself to Villa, ignoring the rest of the Mexican Revolution.
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Nov 232017
 
Men of the Fighting Lady

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Set on an American aircraft carrier during the Korean War, a squadron of bomber pilots question the value of their mission. Similar to The Bridges at Toko-ri (1954), the two films share much in common including the respectful presentation of the dangers of air rescue and the frustration of married veterans of WWII called back into service, but Men of the Fighting Lady is filmed like a documentary, and appears to be intentionally boring. To be fair, it is an effective documentary. The planes are beautiful, and the bombing scenes use stock footage from the Korean War, which gives the film an authentic feel. Read More…

Nov 022017
 
Pancho Villa

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico, which led to the American Intervention in Mexico, is presented as a comedy. To be honest, the screenwriter seems to have done little research, focusing instead on the comedic elements of the script with uneven success. Every scene with Telly Savalas is fun to watch, but it is unlikely that viewers will learn anything about the Mexican Revolution. The action sequences are imaginative if low-budget. In fact, the director seems fascinated with trains, since most of the action involves various scenarios of train collisions. Read More…

Oct 262017
 
The Newton Boys

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Tired of picking cotton, an ex-convict teams up with a safecracker to rob banks at night in the early 1920s, recruiting his brothers to help. The film’s strengths are the cast, especially Matthew McConaughey, Skeet Ulrich, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio, and the presentation of the mechanics of robbing a bank, in particular an explanation of how to use nitroglycerine to blow safes. The script is relatively accurate but Richard Linklater’s direction is merely adequate, resulting in a film that lacks life. Having achieved critical success with the low-budget independent films Slacker (1990), Dazed and Confused (1993) and Before Sunrise (1995), The Newton Boys was Linklater’s first Hollywood film, and he would avoid action films afterwards. Read More…

Oct 122017
 
Man of Conquest

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Although the film covers the entire Texan Revolution, it is presented as a chapter in the life of Sam Houston, so viewers will actually learn little about the revolution, especially since the script is a giant mess of inaccuracies. Oddly enough for a film about a revolution, the endless talk about freedom means there is little time for battles. Read More…

Oct 052017
 
Alfred the Great

Rating: ★★½☆☆
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only film about Alfred the Great, and it is a disappointment. For a movie with numerous battles, the fight choreography is surprisingly weak. The film avoids a glossy portrayal of the period, and Alfred is genuinely unlikeable, vain and abusive towards his wife. Although the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok led the Danish invasion of England, the script ignores the Lothbrok dynasty, highlighting instead Guthrum, a later leader. Since the script focuses mainly on Alfred’s struggle to choose between the Church and the defence of the kingdom, there is little time left for political complexities. A slapstick comedy without the humor, Alfred the Great fails to explain the role played by Alfred in the creation of England. Read More…

Sep 142017
 
Dragonfly Squadron

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
In 1950, an American officer is assigned to train South Korean pilots as war with North Korea seems increasingly likely. If ever there was a film that is a waste of time and money, this is it. For a movie about aviation, there is little air combat. Or entertainment.
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Jun 012017
 
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Rating: ★★★½☆
After a superposse is formed with the sole purpose of hunting them down, famous train robbers Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid relocate to Bolivia and have a thriving career as bank robbers. Admittedly, the movie does not tell the full story of the Hole in the Wall Gang, but it sure is fun. The humor in the movie is due to the actors’ decision to play their irritation at each other’s screw-ups straight, never winking at the camera. Even though it was their first time working together, Paul Newman and Robert Redford have an amazing bond. Read More…

May 182017
 
Wooden Crosses

Rating: ★★★½☆
An unblinking portrayal of the lives of a unit of French infantrymen, the movie is not depressing, just grim There is little sense of how much time has passed. Instead, the soldiers try to survive an endless cycle of tours on the front, rest periods behind the lines and far too rare periods of leave. Unsurprisingly for a war film, death is a constant presence in the film, which starts with a dissolve from soldiers on parade to an endless field of wooden crosses, and ends with a scene of dead soldiers marching into the sky, each holding a wooden cross. Read More…

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Mar 302017
 
The Vikings

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
The fearsome Viking Ragnar Lothbrok kills the king of Northumbria and rapes his queen, who gives birth to a son, who is sent away because he threatens the rule of the current king, but the child is enslaved by Ragnar. The young slave’s life changes when an exiled Northumbrian noble realizes he is the rightful heir to the throne. Stunning scenery does not distract from gaping plot holes. Did someone spill coffee on the only copy of the script, it feels like parts are missing. Aside from the many enjoyable scenes of drinking and tests of strength, it is not a great movie. Read More…

Mar 092017
 
Bloody Mama

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Determined to escape grinding poverty, Katherine Barker leads her four sons on a crime wave. The movie is a strange experience. Even by today’s standards, it is pretty weird. Despite the large number of good character actors, it is a nasty, disturbing film. Read More…

Mar 022017
 
Legends of the Fall

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Legends of the Fall was a passion project for director Edward Zwick, since he loved the book and even gave it as a gift to friends. Sadly, none of that passion made it onto the screen, instead it is painful and boring. Zwick has made many good films, but this is not one of them. Set during WWI and Prohibition, the film is primarily a romance, so the two battle scenes on the Western Front are brief. Read More…

Feb 092017
 
The Bonnie Parker Story

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Yet another crime-does-not-pay film filled with endless snarling between the outlaws. Man, the late fifties sucked for this type of film. Recognizing that she is headed for a career as a prostitute since jobs are hard to get in the Depression, Bonnie Parker, a bored waitress, agrees to work with bank robber wannabee Guy Darrow. Realizing that he is a two-bit operator who prefers to rob gas stations because it is safer, she forces him to rob banks, but they are hunted by a relentless Texas Ranger. Aside from an impressive inaccuracy, the script ups the yuckiness factor when it shows that firing guns turns her on. An unpleasant film. Read More…

Dec 012016
 
Baby Face Nelson

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Baby Face Nelson (Mickey Rooney) becomes a bank robber after he is released from prison but gradually becomes a trigger happy maniac. The role was ideal for Mickey Rooney, who had spent over a decade playing the relentlessly optimistic teenager Andy Hardy, whose response to every crisis was “Hey gang, let’s put on a show!” However, he had came home from WWII to find that there were few roles for a 5’2” adult with a baby face. Aside from several key events, the rest of the movie seems to have been made up. Read More…

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…

Nov 032016
 
Paths of Glory

Rating: ★★★★☆
Following a failed attack on a German position, three French soldiers are chosen by lot to be executed for cowardice and are defended by their commanding officer in a court-martial. Although the film is famous for the court trial, the chilling attack on the German trenches is one of the best I have seen in a WWI film. Director Stanley Kubrick was a photographer, so he carefully researched photos from WWI to ensure that the battlefield and trenches appeared realistic. In fact, many scenes look like an old photo coming to life. A harsh portrayal of the cost of scheming among the high command on ordinary soldiers, Paths of Glory is one of the best movies on WWI. Read More…

Oct 272016
 
Ma Barker's Killer Brood

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Although the script states that Ma Barker was so cunning that she was never arrested in two decades of crime, the real J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, had labeled Ma the brains of the Barker-Kasrpis Gang in order to avoid the blame for killing an unarmed grandmother. While the script transforms Ma Barker into a criminal mastermind who makes Walter White look like an indecisive bumbler, the overall story is relatively accurate. Emphasis on relatively. Despite the complete disconnect from historical reality, it is a fun movie. Read More…

Sep 222016
 
The Lady in Red

Rating: ★★★★☆
Set during the Public Enemies Era, the film presents the life of Polly Hamilton, John Dillinger’s girlfriend when he was killed by FBI agents. Powered by a brilliant script, the movie moves at a breakneck pace, blasting information about the Depression until the romance between Dillinger and Polly slows things down. Despite the connection to Dillinger, it is really an examination of women in the Depression, capturing the bleak reality of life before the introduction of labor regulations, especially the limited range of career opportunities for women. Read More…

May 122016
 
The Battle of the Bulge

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
The film was publicly criticized by former President (and former supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe) Dwight Eisenhower as grossly inaccurate, which is a bad sign. Eisenhower’s anger is understandable. Viewers would think that the Battle of the Bulge was a close call, saved only by a few brave, bright men, especially Henry Fonda’s character Kiley, the hero of the film, who has to figure out the Germans’ entire plan by himself. 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…