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…

Apr 142016
 
Captain Blood

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Arrested for treating a rebel during the Monmouth Rebellion against King James II, Doctor Peter Blood is sent to Jamaica to be sold into slavery on a sugar plantation, where he escapes and becomes the most feared pirate in the Caribbean. The huge success of Captain Blood made Michael Curtiz one of the leading directors in Hollywood, and transformed Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland into stars overnight.
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Mar 312016
 
Blackbeard the Pirate

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Although Blackbeard operated roughly fifty years after Henry Morgan, he has been placed in Morgan’s era. To be honest, the movie is such a mess that it does not really matter. The script goes all over the place, but it is a surprisingly fun movie, and parts of the story are accurate. Viewers will not really learn anything about the period but they will be entertained. Robert Newton is simply awesome as Blackbeard, whose vocabulary primarily consists of Arr and Belike. Read More…

Mar 102016
 
The Black Swan

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Although he became famous leading raids against Spanish colonies, newly appointed governor of Jamaica Henry Morgan enforces the new peace between England and Spain, hanging any pirate he finds. unfortunately, his second-in-command Captain Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power) is more preoccupied with his pursuit of Lord Denby’s daughter Lady Margaret (Maureen O’Hara), than hunting down his former colleagues. While Tyrone Power seems perfect to play a swashbuckler, the romance is flat. One of the first movies filmed in Technicolor, The Black Swan is bursting with color, which compensates for the relatively weak story. 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…

Jan 162014
 
The Scarlet Coat

Rating: ★★½☆☆
In 1780, the war between the British and the American rebels is five-years-old, and has reached a stalemate. The chief intelligence officer for George Washington and the head of the Culper Spy Ring, searches for the agent who is sending the British vital military information, but learns too late that it is the famous hero, Major General Benedict Arnold. While the balanced treatment of both sides is praiseworthy, and the examination of the early intelligence service is worthwhile, it is not director John Sturges’ best film. In fact, everyone is too stiff, aside from Michael Wilding, who plays Major John Andre, a British army officer and Arnold’s contact, who was hung as a spy. Although the movie is worth watching for Wilding’s performance, it is regrettable that the script focuses on the tragic death of Andre, not the vanity and character flaws that drove Benedict Arnold to betray his country. 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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Jul 182013
 
Battle Circus

Rating: ★★½☆☆
The movie’s title Battle Circus refers to the hospital’s ability to pack up and move like a circus. Intended as a tribute to the doctors and nurses who staffed the MASH hospitals, the movie presents the rough conditions they faced, including rain that turns the roads into mud, near-typhoon winds that threaten to blow down the tents and the constant need for more blood, as well as snipers outside the perimeter. There are people in the world who enjoy a performance by June Allyson. I am not one of them. The impressive detail ensures that the film is better than expected, even though tepid would be the kindest description of the romance between the characters played by Humphrey Bogart and June Allyson. Read More…

Jul 112013
 
Battle Hymn

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Major Dean Hess (Rock Hudson), an ordained minister, volunteers to train South Korean pilots at the beginning of the Korean War. When his airfield is overrun by orphans, he persuades two Koreans to help him build an orphanage. Romance develops between Hess and one of the Koreans, but he is already married. When the enemy suddenly breaks through and the airfield is abandoned, Hess evacuates the 400 orphans on foot, and it seems that they will be trapped. Col. Dean Hess, the model for the film, was the technical adviser, but he clearly did not have script approval or did not look carefully at the script, since there are significant differences between him and the screen version. A forgettable film, it is not John Sturges’ best work, although it does sidestep the morass of saccharine melodrama, and is surprisingly color-blind for the period. In fact, the movie shows more about Korean culture than other movies on the Korean War. Read More…

May 092013
 
Atonement

Rating: ★★½☆☆
At first glance, Atonement appears to be a compromise movie, which is primarily a tragic romance to attract women, but has a battle scene to satisfy their husbands and boyfriends. Unexpectedly, the earlier scenes of the romance between a young couple separated by the social divide in England before WWII are much more interesting and coherent than the scenes set during the Dunkirk Evacuation. Far more comfortable with sexual tension and class issues, director Joe Wright’s emphasis on stunning images rather than actually explaining how the British army was successfully evacuated from France at the beginning of WWII proves that he does not know how to direct a war film. Read More…

Mar 282013
 
Bataan

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Set during the American retreat to the Bataan peninsula during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during WWII, a small group of soldiers must stop the Japanese from rebuilding a critical bridge. A workmanlike film, the plot shares much in common with The Lost Patrol (1934) but the cast is made up of an excellent group of character actors and the story moves along quickly. 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…

May 052012
 
Old Gringo

Rating: ★★½☆☆
A vanity project for Jane Fonda, who starred and produced, Old Gringo (1989), set in the Mexican Revolution, is a jarring mix of epic and intimate stories that never comes together as a whole. Parts of the film are superb, but the script does not live up to the stunning images. 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…

Jul 192010
 
Capone

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Capone (1975) has surprisingly good sets for a Roger Corman production and is quite historically accurate until it invents a new explanation for the fall of Chicago ganglord Al Capone. Read More…

May 142010
 
The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid

Rating: ★★½☆☆
More of a caper film than a traditional Western, The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972) is an interesting and enjoyable, if not entirely accurate, look at the James-Younger Gang’s final raid. Read More…