MOVIE REVIEWS
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This page was last updated on 19 January 2016.

"Riders in the Night" should be playing here for your pleasure as you read these reviews!

I have written several movie reviews. You'll soon be able to read all of the movie reviews I've done on this page. BUT meanwhile here are some of those I could easily put my hands on:

Enemy at the Gates

"Enemy at the Gates" was quite interesting. It was about the Germans attacking and trying to take over the Russian City of Stalingrad during World War II (WWII). I had no idea the German army had gotten that far into Russia before. But then again I didn’t immerse myself in studying WW II either. I’m not sure just how much of the story line was based on fact but if most of it was true then I am totally amazed.

The opening scenes were brutal and reminded me of the first half-hour of "Saving Private Ryan". They showed the Russians coming off a train. Every other soldier in line was handed a rifle; the next person in line was handed the ammunition. They were told if the person in front of you gets killed, grab the rifle and go on yourself. As they crossed the river to attack the enemy and defend their homeland they were virtually massacred. If the Germans didn’t kill them, their own officers were shooting them calling them cowards. One man, Vassily Zaitzev portrayed by Jude Law, came to the aid of another, Joseph Fiennes character Danilov. The way Vassily fired his weapon was certainly what made the story. He soon became a member of a sniper crew.

Thanks to Danilov his name and face was in the papers. His superiors made a big thing out of him. The country needed a hero and he was to be it. It wasn’t long before the Germans sent in their top sniper, Major Konig played by Ed Harris, to try to locate this now famous Russian. The movie then went back and forth between the two men and what they were doing.

The film was suspenseful. It had action, combat scenes, intrigue, heroes, villains, and a little romance. The ending left me bewildered but I’m not going to ruin it for you. This film was well worth watching.

Entertaining Vietnam

Many of my readers and friends know that I am always interested in learning more about the Vietnam War as well as those who served during it. This is especially true when it comes to the men and women who went in-country to entertain the troops. For these reasons I have been privileged to recently view a new documentary film.

Mara Wallis wrote, produced, directed and narrated the informative documentary titled "Entertaining Vietnam." She had a personal reason for doing this, as she was a dancer from Australia. She went to Vietnam herself to entertain not only the Australian troops but also other allies including our own soldiers during the war. What she initially thought was going to be just for a few months ended up being two and a half years.

She was drawn there by a promise of work and soon found herself hitching rides around the country. But she was not the only entertainer to do so. Some were known while others were not. Some were strippers, singers and dancers while others were musicians. During the course of the documentary Mara interviewed men and women from Australia and the United States who went to Vietnam with the purpose of bringing a little bit of home and love to the men and women serving their countries.

Nancy Donovan Bradberry was a Go-Go dancer. Bob Pierse was a singer with The BeauMarks and The Delltones. Carol Middlemiss, Denise Cooper, Julie Hibberd and another woman made up the all-female Rock & Roll band called The Vamps. Denise Perrier was an African-American singer who was in-country 1967-1969. Brandi Perry and The Bubble Machine was represented by Jack Bone, their Bass player. Daryl Fedden was a drummer with the Lenore Somerset Show. Bob Stockham, a US Marine, and Jimmy Taylor, a keyboard player, spoke about singer Cathy (Warne) Wayne.

Each person interviewed shared some of his or her experiences in Vietnam. The Vamps even sang a portion of "We Gotta Get Out of this Place" just for this documentary. None of these entertainers knew what to expect in Vietnam. They didn’t travel with Bob Hope nor were they protected like he was. Instead, they went around the country much like Martha "Colonel Maggie" Raye did—alone or in very small groups. They entertained some large gatherings of men and women as well as small ones—sometimes right along the roadway.

They spoke of wanting to make a difference in the lives of the men and women serving there. They talked about their living conditions in Saigon as well as outlying areas. Agents would book their shows at various sites but it was their own responsibility to get there to perform. They often came under fire on the road as well as in the air. Sometimes they had military escorts but most of the time they traveled alone.

Jack Bone talked about the day his group was attacked on the road when they drove unescorted to VungTau. He openly spoke of how piano player Phil Pill and drummer Curt Willis were shot to death. Jack and Brandi were wounded.

Cathy Wayne was another casualty of the war when she was killed while performing on stage. A United States (US) Marine was charged with her death for what appeared to be a fragging incident gone wrong.

This documentary was filled with video and still photos of the entertainers, troops and landscape. Although some of the archived video was a bit grainy what I missed most was not being able to hear the actual music during the entertainers performances. However there were five other songs played during the documentary itself.

If you want to learn more about some of the men and women who entertained the troops in Vietnam you may soon have the opportunity to do so. Mara has been entering this documentary into several film festivals. She is hoping someone sees it, likes it and helps her to get it aired on television or as a short film. I pray that Mara finds the right market for this documentary so that it will be available for all to see. It is time for everyone to learn that Bob Hope was not the only one who entertained the troops. This is an excellent piece of work.

Everyman's War

Everyman’s War is just that! It is based on the true story of Staff Sergeant Don Smith and his group of infantrymen during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. This movie follows the men of the 9/4 Infantry in the snowy mountains near Nennig, Germany. They were up against the German 11th Panzer “Ghost” division but Don’s group stood their ground. Throughout the film each soldier was introduced along with a little about his life before the war. The film gave a personal feel for each man and the families they left behind.  It also showed an update as to what became of them during the war as well as those who survived after the war. This film ranks among the best such as Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.

 

 

 

 

 

Fried Green Tomatoes

I’ve read Fannie Flagg’s book Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistlestop Cafe which eventually became this movie. The book was very good and this video is even better. It brings to life this small sleepy town and its characters. The acting was fantastic. AND now it is available on DVD--just wait till you see the additional features.

Better yet is the opportunity to visit the small community where the film was made. That’s right—go to Juliette, Georgia to see Smokey Lonesome’s shack. See that fabulous barbecue pit where Frank Bennett became so tasty even though he was a despicable man. See the headstone of Buddy Jr’s arm. Tour Ruth & Idgy’s home. Look at the spillway where Idgy fished and the railroad tracks that took Buddy’s life and Buddy Jr’s arm. BUT most importantly—enter The Whistlestop Cafe and sit down for an order of Fried Green Tomatoes. That’s right—the cafe is there and open to the public. You’ll never forget your visit to this little community. AND it will help even more to bring to life this wonderful film.

Hell in the Pacific

Imagine two men being stranded somewhere, all alone. Neither of them speaks the other person’s language. Both of them are enemies. Its wartime. That’s the gist of this film. I found it boring and yet interesting at the same time. But I’m glad I didn’t pay to sit in a theater to watch this film. It was not one of Lee Marvin’s best.

 

 

Home of the Brave

This 2006 film starring Samuel L Jackson, Jessica Biel, Brian Presley and Curtis Jackson deserves more media coverage than it got! 

Though it never really identified the unit these four characters were in—I suspect they were supposed to National Guard members from the same area. The film showed them in Iraq relaxing, working, playing ball, etc before being told they have to go out on a mission two weeks before they are headed home. 

What was supposed to be a humanitarian mission turned into an ambush. Several soldiers wounded and killed. Two best friends separated forever. A female driver seriously wounded by an RPG. A doctor who sees far too many wounded military and civilian men, women and children. 

After they were attacked there are time skips taking each soldier back home. From there the soldiers each faced their own problems. Pain, alcohol and PTSD were all shown in this film. The way the VA helped or hindered each person was also shown. 

Jessica Biel portrayed a young single mother who was a coach at a high school before going to Iraq. She came home minus a hand and her struggles to overcome this loss was for me the forefront of the movie. However I would have liked her character to have been covered more though she did begin to pick up her life with the help of another coach. 

Whether or not this was supposed to be a true story or just a compilation of so many soldiers and the things they endured during and following their time at war remains to be seen. I can only say that this is a must see film for all. 

Of course perhaps now might not be the time for films about current wars. I don’t know but I still believe this one should have received more coverage.

In The Shadow Of The Blade

A couple of years ago one of the Veterans that I correspond with informed me that he was involved with an upcoming movie. Bill McDonald told me about the film he was helping to put together and I’m so glad he did. He also let me know ahead of time where the crew would be going so I let some of my friends know and they showed up for it.

“In The Shadow Of The Blade” finally made it onto film and is already available on DVD. This is a remarkable and at times gut-wrenching documentary. AND it is already winning awards!

This film is not just about the UH-1 “Huey” helicopter that it began as but rather the men and women who were so effected by helicopters during the Vietnam War. This particular Huey was found in a yard and slowly rebuilt to a once again working machine.

When it was ready to fly Native Americans blessed it. AND that blessing was just the beginning of this amazing story. The Huey flew from New Mexico to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky and back to New Mexico. At each stop the Veterans came out of the dust to see it. Some were well-known Veterans; others were not. Some were family members; others were survivors. Some were men while others were women. Some were military Veterans; others were civilian Veterans. AND yes I call anyone who served in a combat zone a Veteran whether they were in the military or serving in a civilian organization. Some of the people talking during the film I have had the pleasure of meeting so this movie made it even more interesting to me.

BG Harold “Hal” Moore had led his troops into the IaDrang Valley in November 1965. He appeared on the film a couple of times and spoke of how important the Huey was to his soldiers and their survival. Joe Galloway, who along with Hal, wrote the book We Were Soldiers Once and Young which became the movie “We Were Soldiers” starring Mel Gibson. He also spoke about how the Huey was such an important part of the war itself not only in getting the troops to the battle sites but also getting the wounded back to emergency care. I’ve met these two men at Fort Hood in Texas; in Washington, DC; and at other Veterans events around the country.

Frank Anton, a former POW of the Vietnam War, was interviewed. He spoke of how he flew his Huey and how he thought of it everyday he was held captive. AND he is still flying today. I met Frank when I was in Florida a few years ago in both Melbourne and Tampa. At that time I had no clue he had been a POW.

Donut Dollie Kammy McKleery appeared briefly on the film. She was thrilled to be a small part of this documentary as the Huey got her around in-country to places she never thought she’d see. During Kammy’s segment there were two other Donut Dollies, Lola Kramer and Barbara Lilly included. I met Kammy the first time in the late 1980’s at a Vet gathering in New York. Since then we have seen each other at many other events.

Bobbie “The Weather Girl” Keith was included briefly in the Special Features on this DVD. I’ve met Bobbie so many times and corresponded with her—she feels like part of my family.

Linda and Jeanie traveled in the Hueys while performing as The Hilltop Singers. They went to many bases and reminisced about their journeys and the troops they met. They also sang a brief song for the flight crew.

At least one nurse, Claire Barrett, was among the people who got to spend some time with the crew making this film.

There were many other people talking throughout the film. Each one of them was identified verbally as well as visually on the screen. Some of the interviewees were nurses. Two were children of men still listed as MIA. One of the men lost his brother in Vietnam. At least two Gold Star Mothers were also included. AND Dr Victor Westphal, who lost his son in Vietnam, was also interviewed. Sadly he passed away before the film was “in the can” as they saw. He funded the Angel Fire memorial in New Mexico in honor of his son.

I say these folks were interviewed but they really weren’t. They just talked about what the Huey’s meant to each of them. While some folks knew the Huey was coming to their area—others found out by word of mouth or accidentally. Whatever way they knew about it—it didn’t matter. They all had stories to share. They healed themselves in some ways.

The filming of this story was definitely a labor of love. The director and producer soon learned this mission helped to heal many parents, brothers, sisters and Veterans themselves.

Whether you see this film at your local theater, in a viewing at a Veteran event or at home on your DVD player—be sure you have lots of Kleenex or hankies available. You will need them—men and women alike. The DVD runs 105 minutes with another hour of special features so be prepared to cleanse your tear ducts from start to finish.

I highly recommend this film for viewers of all ages!

Ladder 49

This movie surpasses Kurt Russell’s “Backdraft”! I was amazed from beginning to end while sitting in the theater watching this film. I can’t wait for it to come out on DVD so I can see it over and over to catch things I may have missed as I wiped my eyes several times throughout the film. It starts with a huge warehouse fire and then proceeds to bring the viewer back through time in the life of one firefighter Jack Morrison portrayed very well by Joaquin Phoenix. The film showed his continuing growth in the Baltimore Fire Department under the tutelage of his (then) captain Mike Kennedy portrayed by John Travolta. I’m sure there is many feet of cut footage laying on the floor somewhere as there wasn’t much footage showing the actual training portions of the fire service like there was in “Backdraft” but that wasn’t really what this movie was about. As Jack grew from a probationary firefighter to a well-respected search and rescue man he also married and began a family. His interactions with his wide and children are showed though flashbacks as he himself lay on the floor of a burning building waiting to be rescued. While this film was about firefighting it was also about the relationships between the firefighters and their families. It was very well done and should be seen by everyone. I guarantee that if you have any feelings toward the firefighters in your community—this film will affect you even more so be prepared!

Men of Honor

"Men of Honor" was another excellent film but it left me wanting to know more. It was the fact-based story of the Navy’s Master Diver Carl Brashear. He was the first black man to attend and graduate from Diving School. Cuba Gooding Jr portrayed Brashear who at a young age decided he wanted to be a diver for the Navy. BUT when he entered the Navy blacks were only allowed in the kitchens.

After coming to the attention of his CO, Brashear was given an opportunity to attend the school he really wanted to. He came face to face with Billy Sunday played by Robert DeNiro. In many ways Sunday wanted to see Brashear complete the course but his commander portrayed by Hal Holbrook tied his hands. Eventually Brashear was successful.

As Brashear’s career progressed, Sunday’s fell apart. Then there was a terrible accident, which resulted in Brashear losing a leg. The Navy wanted to retire him but he fought to stay in. Sunday came to his aid and helped him recover from the amputation. He was by his side when Brashear had to go to court to fight for the right to stay in the Navy. The court scene was very moving.

Yes there was a little romance in the movie and yes there was vulgarity but this film was very good. However it left me wanting more so I will have to go find of copy of the book the movie was based on to learn more about this amazing man’s life. I wanted to see more of his training, more of what he went through, and more of the treacherous dives he went on that made him what he became.

Never Wave at a WAC

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc released “Never Wave at a WAC” in 1952. This movie starred Rosalind Russell as socialite Josephine “Jo’ McBain the daughter of US Senator Tom Reynolds. Paul Douglas portrayed Jo’s ex-husband Andrew McBain. William Ching portrayed Jo’s current boyfriend LTC Schuyler “Sky” Fairchild. Other actors included Marie Wilson, Leif Erickson, Regis Toomey and Hillary Brooke. The original story was by Frederick Kohner and Fred Brady while the screenplay was done by Ken Englund. This film was made in cooperation with the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Women’s Army Corps at Fort Lee, VA and had a cameo appearance by (then) General of the Army Omar Bradley. 

With back drops of old Washington, DC divorced socialite Jo is seen doing many things around town and in her father’s home. Her ex-Andrew returned to that same home to get some books and his dog. He was a civilian contractor working for the Army and of course he got into an argument with Jo before he left. 

Jo learned that Sky was being transferred to NATO’s SHAPE HQs in Paris and she couldn’t go with him. Senator Reynolds suggested that she join the WAC so she could go to Paris too. She made the choice in her life to do just that! 

Off she went to the WAC recruiter thinking her father had arranged for her to become an officer—NOT hardly! At the recruiting office Jo told the clerk she is supposed to become an officer and is soon taking the oath to become a WAC. 

She heads to Ft Lee. The following morning all the women were awakened early by artillery! Scenes included the women marching to briefings, in classes, parades, issued clothing and getting their shots. Real WACs were seen throughout the film during parades as was the 14th WAC band. 

One of the stops made during this day was an interview where Jo once again said she was to be an officer. Many calls were made up the chain of command all the way to General Bradley who in turned called Senator Reynolds. The senator told the general that Jo said that she wanted to start at bottom! When Jo heard that—she wanted to kill her father! 

There were scenes of truck loads of recruits going around the fort. One scene was of Jo’s platoon marching and then told to fall out. The sergeant told Jo that if she wanted to learn to be a general she had better learn to be private first. And yes—there was good old KP duty—Jo had to help grind meat, fix hamburger patties and subsequently she even ground up her letter to Sky while making burgers. 

Andrew was there too—working for the Quartermaster Corps creating and testing new uniforms and equipment! He had a new project and needed six women. The day he and SFC Jackson went to pick up the women he found Jo shoveling coal and asked her sergeant for her also! 

The women were sent for special duty at the testing lab. They were dressed in arctic uniforms and placed in a controlled environment with -20 degrees and wind like a blizzard. Another day the women were testing wet weather outfits. Jo wasn’t happy! Then Jo was told that since she was five weeks into her training she couldn’t receive a commission. She would have to be observed another three weeks to be commissioned. She decided to try and work harder. 

The WACs were taken to the rifle range for one scene—all volunteers of course. Another scene involved the women coming out of the gas chamber and being told they had to go back in. Jo got upset about other rules of the military life and said they were meaningless. She stated that she made the mistake of her life. She wanted to quit! 

Next Jo was called in to the commander’s office, as were her sister WAC’s, some of whom said she was trying to make it. Andrew was also there and spoke up saying Jo’s father had tricked her into joining. Andrew admitted that his own sense of humor affected some things that happened at the fort but said he thought Jo would be a good soldier. Unfortunately Jo came out of the office saying she was leaving the WAC. But the movie ended with her getting out of her car and running back to join the newest group of WAC recruits. 

This romantic comedy brought back many memories and chuckles of my own Basic Training and my time spent at Fort Lee. While this movie may not have been Rosalind Russell’s best work it certainly showed a bit of Army life that the WACs endured. AND it is available on VHS tapes and has become available on a DVD along with another of Rosalind’s movies.

Objective, Burma!

This was a well-made film and even better now that it is on DVD. Watching airborne paratroopers jump into a jungle atmosphere was interesting especially since they were able to find a huge clearing to touch ground in with no one getting hung up in jungle canopy. The film showed an almost unrealistic battle as the American soldiers attacked a radar site. While it may have actually happened—that part for me was hard to swallow. The first supply drop into a clearing was suspenseful as I thought the enemy would be there to ambush the men when they went after their supplies and amazed that the soldiers didn’t seem to look around for the enemy. I found the disintegration of the men’s uniforms interesting. I got the impression the men were in the jungle about four days but the uniforms at the end of the movie appeared as though they had been worn at least six months but perhaps clothing does fall apart that quickly in the jungle. The gliders that flew in with equipment and men were an interesting aspect of the film. The acting was very good especially the night they spent on a mountaintop waiting to be attacked. This was a side of the China-Burma-India war segment that most people have no idea about. I’m glad there is a film, which shows some of that whether it is historically correct or not.

Operation Dumbo Drop

I truly enjoyed this film. Even though it was a film about the Vietnam War it showed me so much more. It showed the compassion of the soldiers for a little boy and his pet elephant. One of the scenes reminded me of something Martha “COL Maggie” Raye had told me about. It was near the beginning of the movie where the two captains are required to share the same liquid the Vietnamese Montagnards were drinking. They had long pole like straws in large containers. One captain said to the other it smells like vomit and tastes like puke. Maggie had photos of her drinking this same concoction! But the movie itself was more about trying to get this elephant from one place to another and what the soldiers went through to accomplish their mission. Based on a true story I recommend this film to viewers of all ages.

Pearl Harbor

I wasn’t born yet the first time our country was attacked. So I learned about Pearl Harbor and WW II as I grew up from my family and school teachers. As I got older I learned more about the war and the attack on Hawaii. Each time I saw various documentaries or movies that included the attack it amazed me that we were caught with our pants down so long ago. AND just a few months ago a similar event took place in my home state.

BUT I saw all the news clips and film trailers about "Pearl Harbor" and I waited to see the movie for myself. Having seen "Saving Private Ryan" in the movies the first time it came out I chose to wait for "Pearl Harbor" to come on video to see it.

Ben Afleck and Josh Harnett portrayed the two young men who became pilots just in time for the war. They also vied for the affections of a nurse played by Kate Beckinsale. While the beginning of the movie was a bit slow it picked up when they were sent overseas.

However—when the actual attack on Pearl Harbor started I was startled. Even though I knew it was going to happen, watching and hearing it was entirely different. The cinematography was amazing. Whether it was from the air or the ground, from the land or the sea, each bomb, each torpedo, each explosion showed me what it must have been like that awful morning.

Cuba Gooding Jr made another good appearance in this film. Portraying a cook who went topside during the bombing and armed a machine gun—something he wasn’t really allowed to do because he was black. Jon Voight made a brief appearance as President Franklin D Roosevelt.

I look forward to watching the movie again when I can sit in one place to watch it from end to end. Yes even though I had rented the video I still wasn’t able to watch it all in one sitting. But I would recommend this film also.

Rescue Dawn

This movie opened today and I just came back from watching it. It is heavy! I think there were 5 other people in the theater with me--all looking about the same age as me of course--and yet there were no discounts for senior citizens. Matinee price of $7 and the first showing was at 0950! 

Based on the true story of Navy pilot LT Dieter Dengler from the USS Ranger whose plane went down in 1965 this was interesting to watch. It shows him trying to evade the enemy in Laos, getting captured, tortured, imprisoned for 5 months, escaping/surviving the jungle and being rescued 23 days later. 

If you have a weak stomach be prepared to see him and others eating bugs for protein. Worse part for me was when he caught a snake and ate it. 

Dieter is said to be the only pilot who escaped from a POW camp during the Vietnam War. I wish I had met him while he was alive! 

Have tissue ready for the last 15 minutes of the movie!

The Great Raid

Last night I watched the Discovery Channel’s program “Ghosts of Bataan” and was amazed that any of the men who survived the Japanese prison camps were still alive to help with this documentary. But I’m glad they were. This was an excellent hour-long program.

Today I attended the matinee showing of “The Great Raid” and I wasn’t alone. The theater had quite a few people in it. That surprised me since this movie began at 12:00 p.m. on a Friday.

I had heard so much about this film that I eagerly awaited for it to come to a local theater. I knew this movie was based on the true story of the Army Ranger’s mission to rescue American POW’s on Bataan. As far as I know this is the first time that a movie has been made about this raid on the Cabanatuan POW camp.

According to the movie the 6th Ranger Battalion under the command of LTC Henry Mucci, portrayed by Benjamin Bratt, was tasked to rescue more than 500 US POWs. Many of whom were emaciated from three years in captivity. The battalion comprised of about 250 men faced more than 1000 Japanese soldiers. Thankfully the battalion was helped by some of the Filipino soldiers in their quest to save the POWs. This raid reportedly began on 27 January 1945 and actually lasted five days.

The movie also showed how many Filipino and foreign aid workers helped with the underground attempting to get food and medicine to the POWs. I’m hoping that this part of the movie was true and I believe it was because I had read a book about the American women who were imprisoned at Santo Tomas and how some of the locals helped to smuggle food and supplies into them.

Connie Nielsen portrayed a nurse who smuggled quinine to the POWs and was somewhat of a love interest to Joseph Fiennes who portrayed the ranking officer within the POW camp. James Franco portrayed CPT Prince the man who actually planned the raid. Dale Dye portrayed a general while Mark Consuelos portrayed CPL Guttierez. For as much as Mark has been mentioned in the trailers I felt he had a small part in the film.

I felt the movie was slow until the Rangers actually attacked the camp. It didn’t really show me how the Rangers planned the attack or how they managed to travel 30 miles behind the Japanese front line. It seemed they really had no resistance until they actually fired the first shot into one of the guard towers. I wonder if that was the way that it truly happened.

However the film did show the brutality of the Japanese as they killed men as they moved from camp to camp. The killing of ten men for each man who attempted to escape was mentioned in the Discovery program so I believe that to be true. The pure murder of POWs by incinerating them alive in underground air raid shelters showed their callus. The beatings of the men and the hoarding of Red Cross food and supplies was atrocious. These things brought the reality of what these brave POWs went through. I wonder if any of these men were brought up on war crimes charges.

What I liked most was the showing of actual black and white footage of Manila and the POWs throughout the movie. The Discovery documentary was actually better than this movie was—in my opinion anyway. While this was a fairly good movie I have to say that I have seen better. However I am glad that someone finally tackled a story about the POWs and the men who rescued them. Their story needed to be told!

The Thin Red Line

Well I just spent another afternoon in the movie theater. I haven’t been to the movies in several years and in less than a year I’ve been there twice. How did that happen? Well it’s because I actually wanted to see the two World War II films on the big screen. AND am I glad I did!

The Thin Red Line opened today here in Wichita. So I dragged myself away from my computer and out of the house to see this film. I went to the second show this afternoon and have to say I almost walked out of it. The first 45 to 60 minutes I found very boring and hard to follow. BUT then the action—at least a little—started.

In my opinion it doesn’t come close to Saving Private Ryan but it was good. Once I realized it was showing how the war affected several of the soldiers it made a little more sense. BUT it might have been better if it showed how the soldiers were years later also.

John Travolta, appearing as an Army brigadier general on board a ship approaching Guadalcanal, was strange. Once the troops left the ship he was never seen or heard from again. Where did he go?

I found Nick Nolte’s character a little like George C. Scott in Patton. Both officers didn’t appear to care what it cost to take a hill or bunker. Don’t get me wrong because I do understand that sacrifices have to be made during wartime. BUT when someone says there is a better way to do something, with less loss of life, why aren’t they listened to? Nick almost reminded me of John Wayne in some of his war films. It wasn’t until almost the end of the movie before Nick showed what he was feeling.

Woody Harrelson had a short part. He portrayed a sergeant who was handling a grenade that went off. His death scene was a bit unbelievable.

Sean Penn portrayed a caring first sergeant. One who was tough when he needed to be and somewhat compassionate at other times. I had to laugh when George Clooney’s character said he was the father of the company, Sean—the mother, and the soldiers the children. I kept expecting to see George throughout the movie but he didn’t appear till almost the end.

That was it for the big names of Hollywood. The rest of the cast were unknown to me and will probably remain so. This film just did not grab me at all—although there was one scene that may have and another that actually did.

The scene that may have was when the soldiers finally attacked a village that had been taken over by the Japanese soldiers. This scene almost reminded me of the MyLai incident in Vietnam. Although there was no killing of women and children, there was of the enemy. It showed how in the heat of battle anyone could do something that isn’t right. BUT this scene also showed that the Japanese soldiers were experiencing the same things that the Americans were. That being fear, shakes, filth, lack of food and water, etc.

The scene that got me the most had nothing to do with the action, or lack of, in the film. Rather it was when one soldier received a "Dear John" letter from his wife asking for a divorce. Throughout the film he had flashbacks of her, their home, and what I thought was their relationship. BUT as he was reading the letter from her, it almost seemed that the scenes of her might have been showing her with another man. I’m not sure. My heart went out to this soldier however as he appeared to really love her and that was helping to keep him alive.

The scenery throughout the film was wonderful: the ocean, the island, the lush tall grass, the bamboo stalks, the mountain stream, etc. Amazingly even after there was a lot of artillery fire on an area there was no sign of damage when the soldiers went into the area. That created a false feeling for me.

Can you tell I didn’t really like this film? It was no where near what I felt for Saving Private Ryan, which was an excellent film. I’ll be interested to see how others view this film.

TODDVD1.jpg (252167 bytes)Tour of Duty (First Season)    (Second Season)    (Third Season)

If you were a fan of this TV program you'll love the fact that it is now available on DVD. The complete first season was released in June 2004. Watching it now brings back all the memories of the program and cast members that I had the pleasure of meeting in the late 1980s. So buy it or rent it and watch the show from the beginning so you too can be aware of what this group did. Just remember that "Paint It Black" isn't the intro song this year--that didn't start until Season Two AND its not on the DVDs at all! BUT all the guys you came to love are here: CPT Wallace, LT Goldman, SSG Anderson, Johnson, Taylor, Baker, Horn, Percell, Ruiz and Doc. The complete second season was released in December 2004 and the third season came out in July 2005.

We Were Soldiers

If you were not able to go to one of the private screenings of this movie I suggest that you go to your local theater now. This movie opened today nationwide and well worth the money.

Knowing some of the people involved with this true story and having met General (GEN) Harold Moore and Joe Galloway a few years ago I felt a necessity to see the film as soon as possible (ASAP). I read the general’s book "We Were Soldiers Once and Young" I already knew what to expect of the film. I knew that neither he nor Joe wanted just any Hollywood company to turn their book into a fiasco. They wanted the truth told and shown so Americans could learn about one particular unit and the major battle they fought in 1965.

I knew that Mel Gibson was at Fort Benning, Georgia (GA) preparing to make the film. I also knew that they moved the film crew out to Fort Hunter-Liggett in California for the actual battle scenes. I was aware that the producer, director, screenplay writer and company involved with making the movie had also done "Braveheart" which won five Academy Awards a few years ago. I felt they would stick to reality rather than sugar coating the true story. While some things were changed to make the movie from the book most of it was as real as possible.

The main cast consisted of Mel Gibson portraying (then) Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Harold "Hal" Moore and Barry Pepper portrayed photo-journalist Joseph Galloway. Sam Elliott performed as Sergeant Major (SGM) Basil Plumley, Lieutenant (LT) John "Jack" Geoghegan was played by Chris Klein, and Greg Kinnear portrayed chopper pilot Major (MAJ) Bruce Crandall. The two women who were shown the most were Madeleine Stowe who portrayed Moore’s wife Julie and Kerri Russell played Barbara Geoghegan.

The movie began by showing French soldiers being massacred in June 1954 in the IaDrang Valley by the North Vietnamese. This valley became known as the Valley of Death and was often compared to GEN Custer’s battle at the Little Big Horn. This was the first intense battle scene of the film but it was far from being the last.

The next scene showed LTC Moore, a West Point graduate, Korean War Veteran and graduate of Harvard, moving to Fort Benning for his new assignment with his wife and five children. There he soon meets MAJ Crandall, aka Snake Shit, a chopper pilot and SGM Plumley. The three of them begin the training process of their soldiers.

Meanwhile another scene shows the soldiers wives gathering and getting to know each other as well as the way things worked around the fort. Even the simple things like where to shop if the commissary is closed or where the best place to do laundry is since the fort didn’t provide washers or dryers in the housing areas are disadvantages to moving families. Remembering that this was the early 1960s one woman said the laundromat she used wouldn’t let her do colored clothing as she said the sign in the window said "Whites Only." She was naïve about the segregation laws then in the Deep South. This movie showed how these women helped each other as well as their spouses and children.

It also showed how important family and prayer was to these soldiers. In the movie when Barbara Geoghegan had her baby girl LTC Moore visited the hospital. He took the time to go to the chapel and pray with LT Geoghegan for his wife, new family member and their units safe return from their upcoming deployment to Vietnam. LTC Moore noticed the lieutenant had the baby’s bracelet on his left arm and said he could leave it there—something most officer’s frowned upon.

Before the group received orders to ship out most of them were wearing the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) shoulder patch or the 11th Air Assault shoulder patch. Upon notification of their upcoming deployment they were redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry and soon replaced their patches with that of the 1st Cavalry Division. Following a party stateside they were headed for the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

After arriving in PleiMe they are soon briefed on their mission. Their group was headed for the IaDrang Valley. LTC Moore had told his men he would be the first to step foot on the ground and the last to leave. He promised them that they would all come home to their families—dead or alive. This was to become the first major encounter with the enemy. BUT the intelligence given wasn’t accurate.

On Sunday 14 November 1965 the 1/7, made up of about 400 US soldiers, arrived at Landing Zone (LZ) Xray and soon found themselves up against more than 2000 North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers. For the next three days the soldiers battled the enemy. Precise times and locations were scrolled across the bottom of the screen. This entire part of the film is very intense. There were firefights, hand-to-hand combat, and bombing missions, which were so close to our own men that there were friendly fire casualties.

One of the platoons was cut off from the rest of the company. Low on ammunition they were told to conserve and "one shot, one kill."

As darkness engulfed the battalion things got worse. LTC Moore walked among his soldiers reassuring them and telling them they did well to that point and to continue. Casualties were mounting. Moore was seen several times praying over the dead and wounded members of his battalion. This showed his compassion even more for his men.

As word was spreading back home of casualties the wives soon found out that the Army was not prepared for this. Taxicab drivers were delivering those dreaded telegrams. For whatever reason it showed that there were no chaplains or counselors there to handle this process. I don’t recall that ever really happening so I’m hoping that was just a little bit of the Hollywood effect put on the film. Whatever the case was, in this movie Julie Moore took it upon herself to deliver all the messages to the spouses of her husband’s soldiers.

Meanwhile Joe Galloway knew that there was heavy fighting going on and he jumped onboard a chopper to go see for himself. Armed only with several cameras he goes into the heat of the battle. When asked why he was there Galloway said to help the people home understand the war by shooting pictures not a rifle. More air strikes are called in and one of the men Joe came to know briefly was badly burned. He carried him to a waiting chopper. This was a rather gruesome scene.

The second day of battle wasn’t any better. The NVA kept bringing in fresh troops as our soldiers were trying to continue the battle themselves. LTC Moore asked for a head count of his men and when he found two were missing he went out himself looking for them. He found LT Geoghegan’s body—he was still wearing his daughter’s name band on his arm. The lieutenant died trying to save one of his platoon members.

More air strikes, heavy fighting, very graphic injuries and deaths and soldiers burned beyond recognition. BUT the 1/7 wouldn’t give up. On the third day of this extensive battle somehow they managed to break through the enemy lines and nearly run over the NVA’s headquarters (HQ) on the hill.

As Joe Galloway continued shooting pictures Moore said "I’ll never forgive myself that my men died and I didn’t." Joe commented, "I don’t know how to tell this story." And Moore’s response was "You got to Joe. Tell them how my troopers died."

LTC Moore refused to leave the IaDrang till all his men living or dead were taken off the field of battle. He kept his promise although 234 of his troopers died. LTC Moore wrote personal letters to each deceased soldier’s family. His compassion continued throughout the next 235 days his battalion was in Vietnam and to this day.

Before the credits rolled there was a brief narration about how our soldiers returned home with no bands, flags, or welcomes. The soldiers knew they fought for each other. The final scene was one of two soldiers, one in a wheelchair, going down what appeared to be an airport hallway. A woman with her children approached them and she pulled the children away from the soldiers as if they were diseased or something.

The names of the fallen soldiers of the 1/7 are listed on Panel 3 East of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Moore and Galloway told their story well. Randall Wallace and Mel Gibson portrayed it excellently.

I watched as the audience left the theater. Men and women walked away slowly. Many sat through the credits like I did. Many were sullen and wiping their eyes. It was obvious that this was a powerful film.

Though graphic in nature this is a MUST SEE movie. Be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions. I believe the film has shown what the IaDrang Valley battle was really like. Those people who may be squeamish about blood, burns, broken burns, etc might want to stay home. BUT if you are a true fan and prefer seeing war movies—this is the one to go to! You not only see the battle scenes but also learn some of the relationship between the men, their wives, and families.

Windtalkers

Have any of you seen this film? It was awesome but left a lot to be desired at the same time. It was loud with lots of action, war violence, and graphic scenes. It was loud as war films are. Some scenes were reminiscent of the first half-hour of "Saving Private Ryan."

It was billed as being about the Navajo codetalkers of WW II—and yet I found there was little in the film about them even though there were two main characters who were suppose to be codetalkers.

The movie began with a battle scene in the Solomon Islands. The Marines were outnumbered and all but one survived this particular battle that was shown. Next Nicholas Cage, who portrayed Corporal (CPL) Joe Enders from Pennsylvania, was recuperating in a hospital in Hawaii. A Navy WAVE, played by Frances O’Connor, who cared for him helped him return to the front lines and yet he didn’t appear to have any feelings for her. Throughout the rest of the film she sends him letters to which he never responds.

The film jumped to a group of Navajo enlisting into the Corps. Next they were going to class where they studied the code they would use. There was little really shown about their actual training. We know that they used their own language as a code the Japanese never broke during WW II. Here the audience is introduced to two Navajo: Ben Yahzee, played by Adam Beach, and Charlie Whitehorse—portrayed by Roger Willie making his acting debut. Both Adam and Roger are Native American Indians although Adam was born in Canada.

CPL Enders is given a special mission. He is to protect with his own life if necessary the life of the Navajo assigned to him and at all costs protect the code—in other words kill the Navajo if the enemy gets too close or captures him. At the same time he is promoted in rank to sergeant. He meets Sergeant (SGT) Anderson, played by Christian Slater. They have opposites outlooks on life but the same mission which neither are sure they can fulfill.

There was little shown in the movie about the relationship between the Navajo and the rest of the Marines. Except for a scene where one Marine assaulted Yahzee the rest of the film simply showed them being called names. SGT Anderson befriended Charlie. They even began playing music together, the Navajo on the flute and Slater using a harmonica. They struck a true friendship.

As much as I like Nicholas Cage and his films I felt like he was the vehicle for this movie and not the codetalkers. SGT Enders stayed aloof to forming a relationship with Yahzee. Perhaps it was that his platoon was cut to shreds in the first scenes of the movie. Perhaps he didn’t want to become friends because he had orders to kill Yahzee if the enemy got too close to him. Perhaps he felt as though he didn’t want to befriend another soldier. BUT I felt that Cage had too much screen time when I thought the movie was suppose to be about the Navajo.

The main thrust of the movie was supposed to be a battle on the island of Saipan in 1944. The American forces knew there were over 30,000 Japanese on the island and yet they attacked. It was yet another brutal battle from one end of the island to the other. Particularly disturbing was a friendly fire incident even though I know those things happened all too often.

But the few scenes of the Navajo using their codetalking was what the movie was suppose to be about. Maybe I didn’t see it—I’m not sure now. Yes the Navajo used their radios to call in information to higher headquarters. They passed along info regarding locations, quantities, units, etc. Sometimes they chattered among themselves since no one else could understand them including their counterparts—the Americans.

There were breathtaking scenes in the film. I admit to shedding tears during it. It was a good movie but I expected to see more of exactly what the Navajo did. However I will say that what "Saving Private Ryan" did for the WW II generation and "We Were Soldiers" did for the Vietnam generation "Windtalkers" tries to do for our Native Americans who served during WW II in our Armed Forces. Their code was never broken. They deserved more credit than they received at the time and even since then. This movie was to be their vehicle for that acceptance.

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