War Horse: the Movie

I blogged last year about both the book and the play.  Click here for my book review. Both were excellent.  Add in Steven Spielberg and the movie HAS to be great!  From the trailer it looks like it will meet expectations.  I will review it after I see it, which will probably be on Christmas day as a present to myself.

And, NO IT IS NOT BASED ON MY BOOK! …lol… I wish it was 🙂

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Published in: on November 30, 2011 at 11:59 am  Comments (4)  
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Memorial Day War Movies

Saw all or parts of several classic war flicks yesterday and today. AMC was running a marathon. My thumbnail reviews:

Kelly’s Heroes. Four Stars. Uniforms and equipment are excellent. The Tiger Tank is awesome and the Sherman’s aren’t bad! Also, I love anything with Jack Bauer in it! 😉

Big Red One. Three Stars. I think it tries too hard to be serious and artsy. Lee Marvin is too moody and the squad is too cute.

To Hell and Back. Two Stars. It looks like it was made in a training area (which is was) and just doesn’t have that “real” feel. You would think Audie would have said something to the effect of “This isn’t what it looked like!”  Murphey’s story is truly inspiring –the movie just doesn’t do it justice.

The Enemy Below. Four Stars. Good drama… one of first good movies of the German view.

Mr. Roberts. Four Stars. The best movie about the critical but sometimes dull job of strategic logistics. The acting (Fonda, Lemon, Cagney) is superior.

Heartbreak Ridge. One Star. I didn’t like it when it came out and it gets worse with age. I doubt its possible to make a decent about the invasion of Grenada.

Courage under Fire. Three Stars. A little hokey on the story but Denzel Washington is excellent and looks for all the world like a half dozen different armored cavalry colonels I’ve known. The night tank battle was nicely done.

Pride of the Marines. Four Stars. The true story of Marine Al Schmid who was blinded while winning the Navy Cross on Guadalcanal. A classic about why we have memorial day and why being a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine is not just another job. Reminds us all why today’s Wounded Warrior program is so important.

The Pacific – An Interim Review

My initial impressions of Pacific are positive.

 First, I don’t have HBO so I didn’t plan on seeing the series until after it came out on DVD.  However, because of a business trip I spent three days in a hotel that had HBO and I was able to catch  episodes 1-3 and 5.  So my observations are based on about 4 hours of the series.  I suspect I won’t see any more until the DVDs come out.  If so, I will try to remember to come back and update this post.

Like the Band of Brothers (BOB) series, Pacific is hyper realistic in terms of sets, equipment and uniforms.  So an A+ on those important traits.  I think, after Saving Private Ryan and BOB, however, the big battle scenes, such as the attack across the airfield in episode 5, were somewhat predictable.  I counted five arms or legs being blown off, at least one maybe two medics killed while treating wounded, and overall you knew that some of the most engaging of the characters weren’t going to survive.  The only question was who wasn’t going to make it.  I also am not impressed with modern  battle scenes were hundreds of troops mass for an attack.  That’s just not realistic for anything other than the beach landings (where, unfortunately, massing was a necessary evil).  Since I saw episode 5 first, and that’s where Marines storm the airfield on Peleliu, my initial impression of the series was not so hot, however, that changed as I viewed episodes 1-3.

Pacific is not BOB and that’s a good thing.  It is different because the war in the Pacific was very different from the war in Europe, and it is different because the source material is very different.  BOB is based on the Steven Ambrose book which is based on his interviews with the soldiers.  Pacific is mostly based on the written memoirs of the men of the 1st Marine Division.  In particular, it relies on Robert Leckie’s Helmet for my Pillow and With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge.  Because it is based on memoirs, Pacific is much more personal than BOB.  It includes a significant story line that focuses on the personal lives and loves of the men.  This gives the series greater weight and makes you care even more than in BOB about the individual marines.

I didn’t see episode 4, and that is where the Marines land on Peleliu.  From what I’ve seen in the trailers and in the above documentary, the landing scene using AMTRACs is probably the most realistic ever filmed.

So, overall I’m very happy with Pacific.  Without seeing the next five episodes, I am guessing it is on its way to be a classic similar to BOB.  If you have HBO I strongly recommend that you catch up with the past episodes and invest in the next five.  If you don’t have HBO (like me) than, enjoy the making of the movie above, tease yourself with the trailers on youtube, and look forward to that boxed set that I’m guessing will be in stores just in time for Christmas 🙂

Here are the books I recommend to go with the series:

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 11:26 pm  Comments (2)  
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German Cavalry and the 20 July Plot to Kill Hitler

bundesarchiv_bild_183-c0716-0046-003__claus_schenk_graf_v__stauffenbergWanted to crosspost this picture from the militaryhorse discussion forum showing Von Stauffenberg mounted.  He was an excellent rider and one of the best in the German army.  See this short biography which has some interesting tidbits on his career.  The intersting thing that is pointed out in the discussion of the movie Valkyrie in the forum that at least 5 of the plotters were from the same cavalry regiment, Reiter Regiment 17, in Bamberg.  Anyway…I love the picture.  Beautiful example of the classic German trakenier cavalry mount.  Also, there are some other interesting pictures of Stauffenberg in a tribute online at the German Stern Magaine.

boeslager     philipp-boeselager-_667558e

Two other very important plotters who were also cavalry officers were the brother Georg (left) and Philipp (right) von Boeselager.  Georg von Boeselager, in addition to being a player in the anti-Hitler army movement, was one of the leaders who reintroduced horse cavalry into the German army after it was abondoned in 1942.  Georg was a highly decorated colonel, winner of the knights cross with oak leaf and swords, who was killed in action on the Russian front in 1944.  Philipp did not have as much front experience as his brother but was one of the few plotters who was not found out.  He survived the war and helped organized the Bundeswehr after the war.  I had the honor of meeting Philipp Boeslager at the 1985 NATO reconnaissance competition named for his brother Georg.  Philipp passed away in May 2008. 

An intersting note is that one of Philipp’s daughters Maria-Felicitas Baronin von Boeselager, married into the Stauffenberg family, marrying Patrick von Stauffenberg.  Though I haven’t figured out the exact connection, I suspect Patrick is a son of  Claus’s brother Alexander.  Thus bringing two very prominent anti-Hitler cavalry families full circle.

Valkyrie Review

valkyrieSaw the movie today and I’ll start by saying I am NOT a Tom Cruise fan. But….It was well made, authentic, and enjoyable. Well worth your movie $. A word of caution however, this movie is history, so I was inclined to love it.

Having said that, I also brought along  my teenage daughter.  She agreed its a quality production, well acted, and good story well told. Also had a German officer student with me. He found the movie very true to the history as taught in Germany and as honored in the German army. He enjoyed the movie immensley.

Four personal observations from me:

1. Overall very little action of the Saving Private Ryan variety. Not really expected so not a big deal.

2. Given that we all know how it ends, the director, acting, and screenplay manage to keep the tension high, the suspense active, and movie moving at a crisp pace.

3. No major short-coming in terms of accuracy of the story or the on-screen details. Uniforms, equipment, and locations are particularly well done. The opening scene in N. Africa was the only “battle” scene and was well done. The uniform details  were particularly impressive.

4. Alot of information is crammed into a short movie with no loss of the essentials. However, it would have been nice if they could have developed the Stauffenberg character more thoroughly. They made the attempt by introducing his family and the potential effects of his actions on them. However, they didn’t develop fully the moral dilemma of German officers choosing between loyalty to country, conscience, and the oath they took to Hitler.  They also underplayed (ignored?) the religious/moral aspect of Stauffenberg’s motiviation.

I would give it 4 stars out of 5.

Published in: on December 31, 2008 at 2:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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