Tag Archives: Movie Review

Movie Review: Dunkirk


Dunkirk (2017) (BD) [Blu-ray]


In a nutshell, the Battle of Dunkirk was fought in Dunkirk France between May 26 to June 4, 1940.  Ther German army had started their blitzkrieg and pushed the combined French and British armies to the beaches of Dunkirk. Surrounded and on the brink of total defeat over 400,000 allies stared death or capture in the eyes. *Spoiler* In the end, thanks to an incredible civilian effort almost 85% of them would be evacuated to the British Isles.

The movie does what it can to capture the desolation and danger of the allies on that beach. Does it actually do that though? Well yes, in a way. See it uses a very interesting storytelling device. It breaks the saga into three different pieces. First dealt with the troops that were stranded on the beach. The second with the British pilots that were trying to keep the enemy aircraft off the beach. Lastly, the civilians that took part in the evacuation with their personal crafts.

Good device for telling the story and the director, Christopher Nolan, does what he can with his device. The thing is all three phases actually happen at different times. The men were on the beach for a week. The pilots over the beach for an hour. The civilians in their vessels for a day. As such, there are a lot of things happening at once, but many scenes are shown from all three “time angles”. Honestly, where it should have made for a compelling story, it just kind of mished and mashed into incoherency.

Did I like it? Not really. I made it through but don’t remember a lot. None of the cast really stuck out and yes, I know there were some big names there. It was just for a war movie it was sort of blah.

See it if you want. Would I recommend it? Eh. Maybe. was it historically accurate? Check here.



Movie Review: Good Morning Vietnam

Good Morning, Vietnam (25th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]

Good Morning Vietnam

Robin Williams

Forrest Whitaker

Good Morning Vietnam  was one of the big hits of 1987, 4th highest grossing film of that year. It starred Robin Williams and allowed him to lay it all on the line in what some consider the best role of his career. He even earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor that year.

The film is set in Saigon in 1965 during the early days of our involvement in Vietnam. Williams plays Adrian Cronauer an Armed Forces radio DJ that doesn’t care much for the chain of command, less for the war going on, and who uses his sense of humor to bring a little lightness to the growing conflict. In the movie Cronauer has just as much to fear from the higher-ups in his command as he does the Viet Cong and in the end he is forced off the air, more disillusioned than ever.

A couple of quick things. The real Adrian Cronauer starting pitching a TV series on his time in Vietnam to the TV networks, who passed because the did not believe that “war could be funny”. This was while M*A*S*H was on the air so, yeah. they may have missed a boat or two. Cronauer then morphed his pitch to a movie of the week which got the attention of Robin Williams and the rest is history. (Williams and Cronauer did not meet until the premier as the director was worried Williams would end up trying to imitate Cronauer instead of doing his own interpretation.)

Certainly one of the classic comedies of the 80’s and Williams did not let any one down. I personally still quote this movie twice a day on a slow day. How does it work as a war movie though?

There is very little combat seen in it, but there is a lot of after effects seen. Though Cronauer in the movie called out some of hypocrisy of our involvement there was still a sense of optimism in 1965, that would fade quickly as time drew on. The soldiers that he meets and those in enjoying his broadcasts in the inter cut scenes of his bits are far from the war-weary, soldiers that they would become later.

The true emotional impact of this movie is with the civilians that Cronauer interacts with during the film. During the third act you can feel his heart-break when the truth of the matter is spelled out plain, to most of the people in Vietnam the US was just another invader in a long line of invaders. All the fun and games of movie evaporate in an instant as the cost of war is driven home. So is this a good war movie? No, not really. But it is movie that drives home the cost of war on those fighting and those just trying to live through it.

Worth it? Oh yes. And you can get the Blue Ray by clicking on the movie image above.

Movie Review: War Machine

Poster for War Machine 2017
The tag line sums the movie up well, just remember it is not a comedy.

Movie Review: War Machine

War Machine is a Netflix original movie that is centered around the conflict in Afghanistan. It is not a comedy, but not quote a drama, definitely not a documentary, but more in the real of satire. There in lies the problem with the movie. It does not quite know what it wants to be and makes for a very uneven experience.

In the movie Brad Pitt plays General Glen McMahon, who is sent to Afghanistan to wrap up the then eight year war in that country. This character is strongly based on Gen. Stanley McCrystal that was sent to do the same thing in real life. As always, Pitt shines and inhibits the character, from speech to mannerisms that makes the character complete. He comes into his new post with the intention of “winning the war” and is well-meaning, almost jingoistic, in his philosophy. McMahon is a soldier through and through and truly believes in what he is doing.

The conflict, and what makes this movie fascinating, is that almost no one that he answers to really wants the war won, just over.  Which to a man like McMahon is just makes no sense. Why fight if you are not supposed to win. How do you protect the people you are there to protect if your hands are constantly tied. That phrase though becomes key as it pertains not just to the civilians, but to the young men that the general orders into the teeth of the monster. It is a reality of what war has become when it is fought in the political realm first and the on the battlefield second. welcome to modern war.

The supporting cast is phenomenal.  Anthony Micheal Hall and Topher Grace are standouts. Tilda Swinton and Ben Kingsley, in the little screen time they do have make an impact. The most props though need to go to Meg Tilly who plays the general’s wife. She will be recognizable to anyone with a spouse or parent that is or has served in the military.

The Grain of Salt

One thing I want to make clear before offering my recommendation. Though it may seem like this would end up being a typical Hollywood anti-war movie, it really is not. It does not get “political” even when it plays politics. It would have been too easy for it to come out and condemn the war and the warriors, but at its heart it just asks the valid question of “why are we fighting here in the first place?”

Do I recommend it? Yes, it is well worth a watch on Netflix. There is humor and poignancy, a good mix for a somber subject. The scene where McMahon is explaining to his staff that, “you can’t help them and kill them at the same time” makes it worth watching alone.


Movie Review: Free State of Jones

Free State of Jones [Blu-ray]

We live in a day and age when the causes of the Civil War are still being debated, where is can be said that Reconstruction never truly ended and anything that has to do with the Confederacy is being called out as a sin that should be wiped from the collective memory.

Along comes a movie like Free State of Jones that shows a man rebelling against the rebels, deserting from their army and rallying his relatives and neighbors to stop fighting the wars of the rich planters as he goes on to build a society around the idea that all men, regardless of color are the same. It’s a story that a cynical person could believe was custom-made to get people talking in light of where our society is.

The thing is, it is a true story. Newt Knight was a real person and Jones County Mississippi did indeed break away from the Confederate States of America and actively fought against the Confederate Army on behalf of the Union. Of course being a movie things are not 100% accurate, but the general gist is there.

Matthew McConaughey plays Newt Knight and he does it well.  McConaughey is one of those actors that to me, always feels like he is playing himself instead fo a character, but in this movie he takes on the roles and does a fine job with the material he is given. The rest of the cast is good, but no one really stands out. For the most part that is because the script is a little messy, and paper-thin in places. Which with an over two-hour run time means a lot of water being tread.

As a Civil War movie it is effective in invoking the conflict, while also showing an aspect of it that is no often dealt with. Not everyone who lived in the South and fought for the South did so to defend slavery. The vast majority of the Confederate soldiers were not slave owners and when push came to shove chose to defend their homes and family when the fighting started.

It’s a good movie and well worth seeing once.  As always you can click on the picture above to get the movie at Amazon. Unlike most times though I am also including a link below to the book. If the movie is interesting to you, pick up the book. or just get the book and then check out the movie.


Product Details

Movie Review: Lincoln

Lincoln (Blu-ray+DVD)


Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and more make for high expectations from this movie. We have come to expect that Spielberg can tell a story that deals with a certain historical setting and bring the times and people to life. Lewis is known for not just his acting, but his becoming the person he is representing. Those two aspects mash together to make this movie very nearly acceptable.

Focusing not so much on the war that Lincoln was fighting against the southern United States, this movie deals with the struggles of getting the 13th amendment passed. For those who do not know this amendment finally outlawed slavery in the United States. So if you are tuning in here to see another war movie, or even to see Lincoln the Commander-In-Chief you are in the wrong place.

I went into the movie with an open mind, but that quickly closed by the time the credits rolled. In reading articles and even reviews about this movie one thing kept popping up. When asked if it is historical the main response was always, “Well, it is a historical DRAMA, not a documentary.” or some turn of that phrase.

One of the mist glaring inaccuracies, among many, was that during the final act of the film when congress was voting on the 13th amendment, the screen writer changed Connecticut’s vote placing two of the three members in a position of supporting slavery. This frankly was not the way the vote went down. When confronted the screenwriter basically said that more tension was needed in the scene so he took some liberties.

Yeah, OK.

As a drama it is a good movie, but it is not history. Watch with your eyes open and afterwards be ready to Google up a storm looking for the truth. Recommended? If you like the drama, sure. If you want the history, nope.

Here is a google search that will get you a list of everything wrong with the movie, Lincoln. List


Movie Review: Glory

Glory  (Mastered in 4K) (Single-Disc Blu-ray + Ultra Violet Digital Copy)


No list of Civil War movies is complete with out Glory. Few would argue that it is one of the best of the genre, even if the history is a little loosey goosey. The actors are all A List and put everything they had into their roles.

Glory tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first all black Union regiments of the Civil War. Made up of freemen and runaways this group of people wanted a chance to fight for their beliefs. This at a time when it was assumed that all men of color were cowards who would run rather than fight when the time came. Up to this point these men were simply used as manual labor by the army. That rarely changed when they started to wear the uniform. Commanded by white officers their lot didn’t really change that much. The 54th was very lucky that the man chosen to lead them, Robert Gould Shaw, saw them their brave souls.

Matthew Broderick has had many unforgettable roles in his life, but as Shaw he helped to bring to life a unique person at a unique time. With such heavy weights as Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Carey Elewes (yes, I put him up there!) the story is expertly brought to life and even when i saw it twenty years ago made me want to learn more about this unit and these men.

So yes, one of the best Civil War movies, but also one with very few actual battle scenes. This only adds to the fabric of the movie. You as the viewer had the chance to build up the same anticipation as the members of the 54th. Both wanting to see the action and both in awe when the big battle finally dawns. The final battle at Ft. Wagner is one of the most visceral and heartbreaking scenes of any military movie. I would say spoilers, but, c’mon we all know how the war ends.

If you have not seen it, watch it. If you have not seen it in a while, watch it again. It holds up and should be held up.


As always, clicking on the image will take you to Amazon where you can buy this fantastic movie.

Movie Review (Sort of): Pearl Harbor (Yes the Affleck One.)

Pearl Harbor [Blu-ray]

So lets get this out of the way right at the top. This is not a great movie. I don;t normally do this, but I am actually going to post a bit of Roger Ebert’s Review:

“Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle. Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality. The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialogue, it will not be because you admire them”, and criticized its liberties with historical facts: “There is no sense of history, strategy or context; according to this movie, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because America cut off its oil supply, and they were down to an 18-month reserve. Would going to war restore the fuel sources? Did they perhaps also have imperialist designs? Movie doesn’t say”*

*Ebert, Roger. “‘Pearl Harbor’.” Chicago Sun-Times, May 25, 2001. Retrieved: June 25, 2009.

Yeah, that about sums it up, but if that is the case why am I offering up a review of it on the site? Because as bad as the movie is it does have something that not a lot of movies about Pearl Harbor has, the American reaction to the attack, The Doolittle Raid. See the last bit of this movie takes our leading men and throws them against Tokyo in modified B-25 Mitchell bombers to various effect.

See the Doolittle Raid achieved very little except as a reflexive action. They hit us and we hit them back. It was a moral boost to Americans and a message to the Japanese that distance would not protect them.

As of today this movie stands as one of the handful, and by far the most modern, of films that shows this incredible feat. It is hard to recommend such a bad movie but as pure brain candy and maybe an introduction to the Pearl Harbor, Doolittle Raid myths, OK, I can see that. Your mileage may very.




Movie Review: We Were Soldiers

We Were Soldiers (2002) (BD) [Blu-ray]



Based on the book by Hal Moore this movie is the story of the 1965 battle at the La Drang Valley between the forces of the United States and the North Vietnamese Army. The movie follows then Lt. Colonel Moore, played by Mel Gibson, as he works to put together the first Air Calvary unit in the US Army and though its first combat deployment. To Moore the horse cavalry was made up of men that could be anywhere at any time and simply by trading out horses for helicopters his men could accomplish the same thing. Leading these men into a fight against the superior numbers of the NVA required men of the highest caliber and a leader that would not flinch. As wave after wave of helicopters brought in fresh troops and ammunition, and carried off the wounded Moore feels the weight of the task put in front of him.

This is one of the roles that Mel Gibson embodies best. Whether as Hal Moore, William Wallace or Benjamin Martin he plays the man who is up against the odds, but will never quite and never surrender. You feel the emotion as he sees his men die around him and sense his desire to fulfill one of his objectives to never leave a man behind on the field.

This movie is not all Mel Gibson though. Sam Elliott, Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Madeline Stowe and Kerry Russel all bring a brace to their roles that makes this story worth watching again and again. The music and sound also put you in the heat of battle and the eerie stillness of the t as they await words of their loved ones fates.

There are however two areas where this movies does kind of drop the ball in my estimation. First is that this came out at a time where it was en vogue to show the perspective of the enemy in the conflict. I don;t have a problem with that in and of itself, but this movie tip toes to the line and then retreats back. It is almost like they want you to feel compassion for the NVA soldiers who are just fighting for their country, but don;t want to commit to making them full blown characters. The second area, and I feel a little bad even saying it, somes at the end. I am as much a patriot as the next guy, but you may find it a bit over the top. Maybe that was how the battle really ended, but I think it kind of undercut the stoic nature of the previous 70 minutes.

See it and judge for yourself, but even to this day I consider it in my top 10 war films. As always you can click the link to get your self a copy.

Movie Review: The Patriot

The Patriot (Special Edition)

The Patriot staring Mel Gibson is a movie that stirs mixed emotions.

The movie itself is very good. A rousing adventure that captures the American Revolution in way that it has not been captured on film before or since.

Since the majority of the film deals with the partisan aspects of the war in the Southern Colonies it deals with the guerrilla tactics that men like Francis Marion, Andrew Pickens and Isaac Huger proved effective. Gibson’s character in the film is sort of an amalgamation of all these men and more with the majority gleaned from Francis Marion. In this Gibson does a very good job in playing the part.

The true stand out though is Jason Isaacs who plays William Tavington in the film as a stand in for Banastre Tarleton one of the most talented and gifted officers in the British Army that seemed to be everywhere during the southern campaign. Tarleton was also one of the most vicious and brutal warriors in the field on either side and Issacs brings this man to life so well that even today when reading about the war his face stands in for Tarelton’s.

Now for some of the bad I suppose. The history is played fast and loose, the timeline is a little wonky, and the “major” battles leave much to be desired. This is the thing. While some of those things are sins, they are not unforgivable.

When I first saw this movie I remember leaving the theater and hearing people talking about the American Revolution. To be honest this is not something I run into in the real world, so even if this movie is a not perfect history it has the power to make people interested. and that alone makes it worth seeing.


Movie Review: The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns

The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns


Originally aired on PBS in 1990 this nine part documentary is simply put The Civil War. From the shadows of the beginning to the fires of the end it takes you through the story of the war. One of the best things is that it uses the words of the participants, letters, journals, speeches, their own words to put a true human face on the terrible conflict.

The voices are brought to life by some of the top talent at the time. Sam Waterson, Jason Robards, Morgan Freeman, Garrison Keillor and others that you would recognize such as Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi and Lawrence. Just a few of a large cast that makes the words the focus of the story.

The best parts? The music. It is haunting and stays with you. The stories that the people tell and hearing their own words.

Not so great? It is a documentary not an action film. It is light on details of the battles, but that is not the focus.

Without reservation the documentary is recommended for all levels of historical knowledge. If you want a primer on this Civil War thing you have been hearing about, start here and dig down. If you are an expert on the subject, watch it again and you may still find something you missed. See if you can catch some of the things that ave changed in the study of the Civil War in the 26 years since it has been released.

Get it. As always click ion the link to go and buy it if you don’t have it!