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Kingdom of Heaven

Nauseating! Rubbish! Kingdom of Heaven is an insult to anyone who values historical accuracy in period films. In an effort to be politically correct, Ridley Scott defames Christianity and buries history under a mound of garbage. Yes, the battle scenes are exquisite and the scenery is compelling, but these are worthless without a respectable plot. Get it straight, Ridley: Islam was never so enlightened or tolerant as you have portrayed it in this grossly biased film - ask any Dahomey who has suffered under its oppressive strictures. Ask the millions of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists who were uprooted, enslaved or massacred during its expansion. Their descendants are still suffering today. And the much maligned Crusaders were not the first aggressors in these campaigns. In point of fact, the Crusades were a western response to continued Muslim attacks on Byzantium territories. In short, it would be only fitting for you to do your homework before you attempt to make an epic. And the public should do itself a favor and not waste time and money on this drivel.

A Midnight Clear

One of the better WWII films, vastly underrated
A Midnight Clear is a gem among modern WWII films. It manages to be wonderfully realistic without the heavy emphasis on blood and gore. This movie centers upon the experiences of some very human individuals, rather than famous battles and vast armies. It employs a very solid cast, most of whom were relatively unknown at the time of production. There is no simple division between Good Guys and Bad Guys; the young German soldiers are very human and likable, while at least one American officer is not. A Midnight Clear does a commendable job of demonstrating the absurdity and ultimate futility of war, without either preaching or denigrating the heroic service of the soldiers of that war. Highly recommended.

Saints and Soldiers

Better than average WWII film, but trite
I enjoyed Saints and Soldiers for what it was - a neatly crafted, low budget affair. The producers had the sense not to reach too far with limited resources, and thus produced a very passable but predictable film. The historical accuracy of even small details was a refreshing change from the typical Hollywood inclination to sacrifice truth in the quest for an exciting plot line. The actors all turned in fine performances, too. Where Saints and Soldiers fails is in its predictable plot. We've seen this stuff in all too many earlier war pictures. The band of strangers who have their differences and antagonisms, but overcome these as they are forced to work together; the stereotypic American rural and British soldiers; the rescue of an innocent civilian from the dishonorable intentions of an evil Nazi; getting through enemy lines by impersonating enemy soldiers; the deaths of a couple of our favorite characters during the climax - this is all stock fair, and some earlier WWII movies have certainly done it better. By all means see Saints and Soldiers, but be prepared for a lot of predictable themes and scenes.

My Side of the Mountain

Unusual and highly recommended children's movie
My Side of the Mountain made a huge impression on me when I was a kid, so much so that I still remember most of the details, although I have not seen it in about thirty years. It is based on the novel of the same name by Jean George, and is reasonably faithful to it. What I liked best as a kid is that My Side of the Mountain was so unlike the cutesy, syrupy kid flicks of the time. I mean Disney and all the Disney wannabes, with their adorable moppets and idiotic plots. The protagonist, Sam, actually has a brain. Although he's not larger-than-life, he's certainly one of a kind. I envied him. I spent endless days alone in the forest myself when I was his age, watching nature and enjoying my own company. I would leave right after breakfast and return home only as dark was falling. It was considered usual behavior at the time, but not dangerous. Few modern kids will ever have such experiences - what a pity! Watching My Side of the Mountain would be a terrific way to get a taste of it, however. Parents everywhere should rent this rather obscure little gem.


Best war series ever produced on TV
Combat! was, quite simply, the best war series ever produced on television. There was no heavy-handed moralizing, no super-heroics, only a bunch of everyday kind of guys slogging through a hellish situation as best they could. Like the actual dogfaces of WWII, the men depicted in Combat! were neither cold-blooded killers nor war hawks. They were civilian soldiers. You got the distinct impression they'd far rather be at home, but since fate had brought them to the front, they would do their best - not for glory or some noble cause, but because it was expected of them and their fellow soldiers' lives depended on it. Here is the most realistic depiction of war you're likely to see on the small screen. Good beyond hope.

The Brady Bunch

There is only one possible rating for the Brady Bunch: ABYSMAL. If you don't like that, how about nauseating! Jello! Insufferable drivel! This syrupy sitcom was one of the worst family shows to ever hold onto its time slot. How could anyone over the age of ten ever sit through an episode? The Brady Bunch had everything that made television of this time period such a brain-drain: toxically cute kids with cardboard personalities (played by real life kids who couldn't act), insultingly sexist stereotypes (stay-at-home bourgeois mom of six with live-in housekeeper; repulsively self-centered girls who cared about nothing but their clothes and appearances); idiotic plots and lame dialogue. The only bright spots were the relatively talented adult actors, who deserved better roles than these.

I certainly understand the bittersweet nostalgia that compels many viewers to tune into classic television; what I will never understand is the yearning for outright garbage like the Brady Bunch. With so many truly great programs from earlier decades, surely we can all find more worthy objects for our affections.

The Forgotten

Solid thriller/sci-fi
Personally I thought The Forgotten worked very well for its genre: a blend of both suspense thriller and sci-fi. (Let's keep in mind that this category appeals to only a select few.) No, it wasn't the best of that class; it had both its hokey (mother love again? ho-hum)and its derivative (Dark City) facets. Moreover, the extended alternate ending was far far better than the made-for-TV type theatrical ending that moviegoers saw. Such quibbles aside, The Forgotten is a well-crafted film with some very fine, carefully restrained special effects scenes (i.e., the unexpected car crash, also my personal favorite - what happens to NYPD officers who take too close a look at forbidden mysteries?) If you don't try to force it into the mold of pure thriller or pure science fiction you will probably find it quite enjoyable

Hogan's Heroes

Hogan's Heroes more clever than credited
I watched Hogan's Heroes in reruns as a kid, although not consistently. Some thirty years later I happened to catch it in reruns once more, and was surprised to discover how clever it actually was. It was a zany and often silly lampoon of heroic war and spy movies. In order to appreciate the plots and humor, viewers actually require a fair amount of background knowledge on World War II. Examples include: the difference between a POW camp and concentration camp; German laws which prevented military personnel from joining the Nazi party (thus Klink, Schultz and the other Luftwaffe personnel were not Nazis); the difference between the Abwehr and the SS; the location and importance of such facilities as Peenemunde…the list goes on and on. The show was also avant-garde for its time, one of the first in which an African-American was portrayed in a wholly positive light, as a competent and intelligent human being. The actors were all talented and worked well together.

As for those who say there is nothing funny about Nazis – Ha! Please go get back in the line where God is handing out a sense of humor. Hogan's Heroes had the taste and good sense to hint at the truly dark side of that regime, without ever focusing upon it. Most notably, it stayed away from the Holocaust, understanding that there really was nothing amusing about that. The rest of Nazism – the crude methods, the arrogance, the bureaucratic incompetence – deserves nothing but mockery. Read a good history of the Third Reich and you come away wondering how those bozos ever managed to stay in power for twelve years. These were the folk who exiled, imprisoned or executed almost all of Germany's best and brightest, from Einstein to Rommel. Nazism was never good at anything beyond terrorizing the weak and murdering those who got in its way. Step outside of modern concepts of political correctness and you realize that Hogan's Heroes gave the National Socialists exactly the sort of notoriety they deserved: dismissive ridicule. Hitler must be writhing in his grave. Amen.

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