Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Michael's Christmas Movie Guide: A Christmas Carol (1951)


One of the greatest movies ever made. 

This movie is a quite faithful adaption of Charles Dickens' classic novel. You all know the story, Scrooge (Alister Sim) is a greedy covetous old man. He has grown cold hearted and has no sympathy for anyone else's misfortune. One night he is visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), who warns him to change his ways before it is too late. He also tells Scrooge he will be visited by three more ghosts. These ghosts show Scrooge, Christmases of his past, present and future, so that Scrooge can see the error of his ways.

There have been more film adaptions of A Christmas Carol than I care to count. Some perfectly fine adaptions have fallen through the cracks simply because while being good movies, they don't stand out among the many adaptions. So, what makes this film so special that it stands as easily the best of these adaptions? This is not an easy question to answer, but for the most part it comes down to excellent filmmaking and an incredible performance by Alister Sim.

For many movie fans, Alister Sim is Scrooge. His performance embodies everything this character should be. Though many great actors have played Scrooge, none have captured the vulnerable and abundantly human side of Scrooge as well as Sim. He can make you feel deeply for the character even when he is at his most despicable. His performance is possibly the only performance of the character that can move me to near tears. You feel sadness when he feels sadness and joy when he feels joy. Yet all this is done without sacrificing the darker and unlikable parts of this famous character. As strange as it might seem today, there was in outcry against Sim playing the character when it was announced. He was a popular actor in Britian at this time but was known mainly for comic roles. Few thought he had the dramatic chops to portray such a character. In fact, George Minter, managing director of Renown Pictures (which made the movie), wrote an article in the magazine, Picturegoer to explain the choice to those who didn't understand. Yet many movie fans cannot read Charles Dickens' classic story without picturing Alister Sim in their heads. 

What this movie also does better than any other film adaption is to capture the balance of darkness and joy that are present in Dickens' classic story. This is a movie that can be equal parts sad, scary and joyous. Yet in no way does this ever feel forced. It goes from each of these emotions in a way that feels perfectly natural and real. Director Brian Desmond Hurst and writer Noel Langley, create the most emotional and powerful film version of this classic story. 

The look of this film is perfect as well, and it is hard to imagine this film without the work of Art Director, Ralph W. Brinton and Cinematographer, C.M. Pennington-Richards. Much of the art direction was heavily based off of John Leech's original illustration for the book. According to the audio commentary on the DVD version, one of Charles Dickens's Grand Daughters visited the set, and said it looked just the book installations to life (Another visitor mentioned was one of my favorite actresses, Bette Davis, who was a big fan of Alistair Sim).

This film has two titles, in Britain, where it was made, it was called Scrooge, however in the U.S. it was called A Christmas Carol. Its U.S. Premiere was meant to take place at New York's Radio City Music Hall at Christmas time; however, the theater management was not happy with the film as they felt it was too dark and grim, and therefore not good entertainment for a family audience. The much more lighthearted 1938 MGM version did premiere there by the way. The film's actual U.S. Premiere was at the Guild Theater on Halloween Night. It did not do very well in the U.S. but was a huge hit in its home country of Britain. Despite this it would still as the years went by grow into being considered a classic in the U.S. as well.

The editor for this film was Clive Donner, who would later direct the 1984 film version of A Christmas Carol, that starred George C. Scott. Two of the actors in this film, Alistair Sim and Michael Hordern would reprise their roles as Scrooge and Marley for the 1971 animated version, directed by Richard Williams (best remembered as the animation director for Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

Resources Used
DVD audio commentary by Marcus Hearn and George Cole
DVD introduction by Leonard Maltin
Christmas in the Movies by Jeremy Arnold 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Michael's Christmas Movie Guide: Star in the Night (1945)

 In the 1930's and 40's Warner Brothers was known for making some of the most hard boiled and cynical films. Rarely did they delve themselves into the sentimentality MGM, so often did. Even the studio's cartoons were rarely sentimental. However there was another idea the studio was known for promoting as well. They were working man films made for the average Joe. This plays a huge part in A Star in the Night, making the short film feel like a Warner Brothers picture while it unabashedly goes into sentimentality. Despite this the sentimentality is extremely effective and heartwarming, making this a must watch for the Christmas season.

Nick (J. Carroll Naish) runs an inn. Everyday he sees people act selfishly and has lost his faith in humanity and therefore Christmas. A hitchhiker (Donald Woods) tries to convince him that deep down people are good and Christmas is therefore an important time. One day a woman (Lynn Baggret) and her husband (Anthony Caruso) come to the inn. They have no place to stay and the woman is with child.

At the time this film was made Jack Warner and Don Siegel were arguing. Jack Warner as a sign for the two to declare peace gave Siegel the opportunity to direct to short subjects. Don Siegel suggested this film, excepting Warner to reject it. However Warner accepted the idea and Star in the Night was made.

Though his name may not be much remembered today, J. Carroll Naish (the star of this short movie) will probably be recognized by fans of movies of this era. He was in hundreds of movies in very small parts. He appeared in such movies as What Price Glory, Elmer the Great, Front Page Woman, Captain Blood, Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Sahara, House of Frankenstein and so many more. In Star in the Night he proves that he could easily hold his own as the lead in a movie. He is fantastic here and a pure delight to watch. He not the only great thing about this short. Saul Elkins' script is fantastic. It is touching and lovely without ever feeling forced. Everything just flows naturally. Life's problems are not just glanced over instead, they are treated as still being harsh. What this movie does show is a basic goodness lying under all our cynical exteriors, and that a bit of optimism and faith can help us make life seem a little bit better. For anyone who has a soft spot for Christmas sentimentality this film is a must watch. However even the greatest cynic may find their heart melting.

This short movie won an earned an Oscar for best live action short subject and I say it is well earned.

Resources Used

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Movie Review: I Heard the Bells


Michael's Movie Grade: A-

A wonderful faith-based Christmas film. 

This movie marks the feature film debut for Sight and Sound Theatres, which puts on elaborate Christian themed plays (often with big special effects) often times telling stories from the Bible. This is an especially impressive film debut and simply great movie. Rather than telling a story from the Bible, this movie tells the story of how the poet Henry Longfellow wrote the words to the classic Christmas carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. They adapted to the movies very well. This film never feels stage bound, but instead very cinematic. Rather than staying for a long time in one place this film will move to many different locations over the course of the film. All these locations are given a real authenticity. As well as this the camera does not remain stationary and the cinematography is often excellent. This movie is also less effects heavy than the company's plays. This is very important because while these effects are jaw dropping on a stage, in a time with many effects heavy films, they would just get lost in the shuffle in a movie. These effects also while they would feel at home in many biblical stories, would feel out of place in a film like this. 

Beyond just the technical aspects, this is simply a very moving film. This movie is quite sentimental, yet the sentimentality always feels genuine and never forced. A major reason for this is that we truly grow to care about the characters here. Our main character, his wife and his oldest son are all fully fleshed out characters with many virtues as well as all too human faults. Yet none of these faults ever make the characters unlikable, but only more human and real. All this is helped by a wonderful cast who bring the heart and soul out of each character. The story is also a wonderfully touching one and it is told in a way where every emotion rings through. This movie lightens many of the darker moments with some humorous moments. However these moments are truly funny and seem to come naturally out of the story instead of feeling forced in. They also never take away from the impact of the drama. This film can be a bit of a tearjerker, but it is an incredibly well made one. This movie also does a wonderful job getting across in Christian message. It does this in a way that makes this feel like a film instead of a sermon, but where the message is still just as clear and powerful as in a great sermon. The message comes directly from the story and there is never a moment when the film stops so a character can preach it to us. As a Christian I fully agree with this message and appreciate they intelligent and cinematic way it is conveyed. 

A wonderful movie. 

Cowboy Church #198

 Hello my friends and welcome back for another service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with the medley Remember Whose Birthday It Is/Happy Birthday, Gentle Saviour. There is no problem at all enjoying all of the presents, decorations and movies that come with Christmas (and no one loves them more than me), but we must always remember that Christmas is all about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and it is important every Christmas to remember what Jesus gave up by coming down from heaven to be a human here on Earth. Most importantly it is important to remember why he did it. He did it because of his love for us and his desire for us to be able to spend eternity in heaven with him. This wonderful recording comes from Roy and Dale's 1967 Christmas album, Christmas is Always.

Next comes The Louvin Brothers with their 1961 recording of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. The song was written by Edmund H. Sears. This hymn first appeared in Boston's Christian Register, on December 29, 1849 (yes after Christmas). That version has a verse that does not appear in this version, "But with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long; Beneath the angel-strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not the love-song, which they bring: O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing!" This verse reflects the state if America at the time this song was written. The Civil War was approaching, and Sears found himself concerned with the division in our country. Unlike many Christmas songs, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is not a song about peace on Earth but rather a plea for it. With the division and anger that is so prevalent today, this is a perfect Christmas song for our time. This song has been put to different tunes over the years and the two most prevalent are Carol (by Richard Storis Willis in 1850) and Noel (by Sir Arthur Sullivan in 1878). Carol is the preferred version of this song in the U.S. and is the Louvin Brothers perform here. The tune had been used for other lyrics dating back to when it was written in 1850, and was first used to accompany, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear in 1878.

This is followed by The Stanley Brothers with Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. This is one of my favorite versions of this classic hymn. The boy's harmony here is simply perfect and the bluegrass stylings of this version seem to fit the lyrics and the singing perfectly. 

Afterwards comes Gene Autry with O Little Town of Bethlehem. This lovely rendition comes from an episode of Gene Autry's Melody Ranch radio show that aired on December 22, 1946. The lyrics to this hymn were written by Phillips Brooks in 1865. He wrote the words this hymn after taking a group of Sunday school children on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. The music was written by Louis H. Redner, the church organist. There was originally another verse to this hymn, "Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child. Where misery cries out to thee, son of the undefiled; where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door, the dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more." However, Redner objected to the words "son of the undefiled." Brooks briefly changed the line to "son of mother mild" before dropping the verse all together. This hymn appeared on a small leaflet in 1868 and in The Sunday School Hymnal in 1871.

Now for Martha Mears and The Sons of the Pioneers with a 1944 recording of Jingle Bells. James Lord Pierpont wrote this song in 1857. Despite being known as a Christmas song today, it was originally written with a different holiday in mind. Under its original title, One Horse Open Sleigh this song was written to be used in a Thanksgiving service at a Church where Pierpont was the organist. The song was so well received that it played again at the Church on Christmas day. For a song written to be performed at a Church, the original lyrics were racier than one would think and would be changed so that children's church choirs can perform the song. This version comes from a 1944 episode of the radio show 10-2-4 Ranch.

Nest is Anne Wilson with I Still Believe In Christmas. This original song written by Anne herself comes from her 2022 Christmas EP, The Manger. I hope that none of us ever stop believing in Christmas. 

Now for The Carter Family with their 1930 recording of On My Way To Canaan's Land.

After this is Third Day with Christmas Like a Child. Christmas is a time of childlike wonder, where even those who are well past childhood can feel like children once again. This makes it the perfect time to come to Jesus, because as Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein." So if you have walked away from Jesus and turned your back on him, this time of the year in many ways is perfectly designed for you to come back to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ and if you choose to humble yourself and come as a child, the blessings you will receive are plentiful.

Today's musical selection ends with The Charlie Daniels Band with Christmastime Down South. This is the title song for the band's 1990 Christmas album. This song talks about some of the simple joys that make Christmas extra special. I hope this Christmas we can all take some time out of the hustle and bustle to reflect on all the little blessings God has given us that make life extra special.  

This week's movie trailer is for Andrew V. McLaglen's McLintock (1963). This film was made after John Wayne had lost a lot of money and box-office capital with The Almo (1960). John needed a movie that would help him make up for both loses and that came with this film. This movie was a fun comedy that placed Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew in the old west. Since The Quiet Man (1952), John Wayne had been wanting to work with Maureen O'Hara again and this film gave him that chance. 

Now for a sermon from S.M. Lockridge about John 3:16.

Pslam 27

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When the wicked advance against me
    to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the Lord.

7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
    be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
    you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
    God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
    lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
    for false witnesses rise up against me,
    spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

Thank you for joining me. Come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Michael's Christmas Movie Guide: White Christmas (1954)


A simply wonderful musical. 

This film's storyline is incredibly simple. Two men (Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye) meet in the army and form a song in dance team. After leaving the army the two become major stars. One day they catch a sister act (Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen) and fall in love with these two girls and follow them to Vermont. In Vermont they meet their general (Dean Jagger) in the army. The general is running a struggling inn and the two men decide to put on a big Christmas Eve show at that inn to help him. All the while they have various romantic entanglements with the two sisters. 

Within this simple story is an incredible amount of charm. Everything about this film works beautifully. The most obvious praise to give this movie is the great musical numbers. All the songs used in this film were written by the great Irving Berlin and the songs chosen show off the songwriter's work to great advantage. There is not one song here that is not a delight to hear. Yet what is visually happening during these song numbers is just as delightful. Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen's wonderful dance numbers are a definitely highlight and make the two simply light up the screen during these scenes. Not only is their dancing amazing, but they also bring a wonderfully fun energy to each of these numbers that will even put a smile on the face of those who don't normally like musicals. Danny Kaye performing Choreography, especially puts a smile on my face every time I see it. His dancing there is equally parts comedic and impressive, showing off both his dancing and comedic talents to their fullest. The beautiful singing voices of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney don't hurt at all. The two are in great form and show off why both are such respected singers. To this day there is no one who can sing a Christmas song as well as Bing Crosby. His voice simply fits the season perfectly and when he croons the title song, one gets that unexplainably wonderful Christmas feeling. The final reprise of the title song may be one of the most perfect moments in Christmas movie history. The image of our four main stars in front of a giant Christmas tree decorated in wonderful Christmas outfits with a group of very talented kids dancing and a beautifully snowy backdrop simply feels as warm and cozy as a cup of hot chocolate at home on a Christmas Eve night.  Yet this movie is even delightful beyond just the musical numbers. The storyline may be simple and sentimental but it is the type of sentimentality that really works. We truly care about these characters and want to the romances work out and for the general to see how much he has meant to so many of his men. The humor is also fantastic and there are quite a few wonderfully funny moments. The banter between Bing and Danny Kaye's characters is especially fantastic and can still make audiences laugh to this day. However the biggest comedic highlight is the two main male characters doing their own kidding of the sisters' Sisters musical number. If you look at Bing Crosby's face during that scene, you can see Bing trying not to break into laughter. This film being directed by the legendary Michael Crutiz (Casablanca (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)), it is wonderfully paced, giving a warm nostalgic feel while never feeling too slow. 

To make a movie revolving around the song White Christmas was a natural idea. The song had been a major hit since it premiered in the movie, Holiday Inn (1942). In fact, that is in understatement. To this day Bing Crosby's version of the song is still considered to be the highest selling song of all time. In fact Bing Crosby had already reprised the song in another feature film, Blue Skies (1946). This movie was originally indented to not only reprise the most popular song from Holiday Inn but it was meant to be a reunion of the two stars of that film, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Both stars turned down the picture. Bing Crosby would change his mind though Fred Astaire did not. Fred's role was then given to Donald O'Connor (who would have been great in this movie). However Donald became very sick before production began so the role was given to Danny Kaye. Danny Kaye luckily was a wonderful choice for the role. Rosemary Clooney would later state that the Sisters number worked because she couldn't dance and Vera-Ellen couldn't sing, but together they could pull it off. Vera-Ellen's voice in this number is actually dubbed in by Rosemary Clooney.

This is simply a wonderful piece of old-fashioned entertainment that will simply put a smile on any movie fan's face. 

 The following is a 1955 article from TV Radio Mirror where Rosemary Clooney talks about Bing Crosby. If you have any trouble reading the following pages click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in.

Resources Used

Christmas in the Movies by Jeremy Arnold


Some Cartoons for Saturday Morning #202

 Hello my friends and welcome back for another selection of classic cartoons.

Today's cartoon selection begins with a wonderful Christmas themed Donald Duck cartoon, Toy Tinkers (1949). This movie is a personal favorite of mine and in my opinion is the best of the cartoons were Donald faces off against Chip and Dale. The film has some wonderful cartoony gags that could have come from a Looney Tunes cartoon of the same time, and I love that. The telephone gag is especially wonderful. I have always loved the really cartoony side of Disney and movies like this that show off that side have a special place in my heart. This cartoon would make its TV debut on a 1958 Christmas episode of Walt Disney Presents. That version starts with some new animation featuring Chip and Dale telling Jiminy Cricket how they celebrate Christmas. 

Variety, 1943

Next comes one of the Sylvester and Hippety Hopper cartoons, Hoppy Days (1961). All of these films were directed by Robert McKimson and followed the same basic formula of Sylvester mistaking the baby kangaroo for a giant mouse. There were 13 of these films and this was the next to last one. 

Now for a delightful Betty Boop cartoon, PArade of the Wooden Soldiers (1934). The following are some exhibitor's reviews from the Motion Picture Herald, "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers: Betty Boop: A clever short subject and fine for children. - C.A. Pratt, Texas Theatre, Smithville, Texas. Small Town Patronage." " PARADE OF WOODEN SOLDIERS: Betty Boop Cartoons — One of the best Betty Boop cartoons. The musical score by Rubinoff is splendid. Running time, nine minutes. -A.B. Jeffries, New Piedmont Theatre, Piedmont, Mo. Rural and small town patronage." 

Up next is Christmas Night (1933). This cartoon comes from the delightfully underrated cartoon series, Van Bueren's Little King cartoons. These films are full of the type of surreal cartoony gags that 
I simply love and this movie is one of my favorites in the series. 

Now it is time for a commercial break. 

Now for a classic Mickey Mouse film, Mickey's Rival (1936). The titular character is a mouse named Mortimer. Those of you who know your Disney history will know, that Mortimer was a name that was considered for Mickey. This was Mortimer's first appearance though he bared more than a little resemblance to Mr. Slicker a character that appeared in the Micky Mouse comic strip. Though Mickey's Rival was his only appearance in a theatrically released short film, it was not his only appearance in animation. He became a reoccurring character in the television shows, Mickey Mouse Works (1999-2000) and House of Mouse (2001-2003). He also has a role in the direct to video feature film, Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas (1999) and has appeared briefly in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (2006-2016) and Mickey and the Roadster Races (2017-present). Outside of animation he has been used very often in the Disney comic strips and began to appear in them around the same time he made his debut in movie theaters. Mortimer's design is said to be based off of Walt Disney and those who have seen pictures of a young Walt, will find this easy to believe. The ending to Mickey's Rival has Mickey and Minnie simply shaking hands. However it was originally planned for Mickey to have a buzzer on his hand to play a Mortimer type prank on Minnie. Though this would have been out of character for Mickey at this time it would have fit perfectly in with the Mickey Mouse of the late 1920's. A review in The Motion Picture Herald stated "The subject is less complex than many of the recent Disney fabrications but wholly entertaining." The following is an exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "Mickey's Rival: Mickey Mouse - We find that the bad characters often frighten our small children and they go out into the foyer until it is passed over. - Harland Rankin, Plaza Theatre, Tilbury, Ontario, Canada, General Patronage." The following is another exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald, "Mickey's Rival: Mickey Mouse—Played this the second time as it is one of the best of the Mickeys. — C. L. Niles, Niles Theatre, Anamosa, Iowa. General patronage." A review in The Motion Picture Daily stated, "Clever animation and fast-moving, but there have been better Mickey's. For instance 'Alpine Climbers.'" The following is from a 1936 issue of The Film Daily, "United Artists' latest Walt Disney release, 'Mickey's Rival', introducing Mortimer Mouse, will open at the Radio City Music Hall with 'Swing Time' on Thursday, and at the Rivoii Theater with 'The Last of the Mohicans.'"

Next comes a delightful Christmas treat from Famous Studios with Hector's Hectic Life (1948). This movie was directed by former Disney animator, Bill Tytla (probably my favorite Disney animator). Tytla had worked on some of Disney's finest feature films including Snow White (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Dumbo (1941) and his animation was often a highlight even in these masterpieces. Though the Famous Studios cartoons he directed might not be as highly praised as his animation for Disney, these films often showed him as a very capable director. This movie is a good example of this. 

Next comes The Pink Panther in Sherlock Pink (1976).

Now let us close with a song.

Thanks for joining me, come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry. 

Resources Used

Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History by David Gerstein and J.B. Kaufman

Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons by Leonard Maltin



Thursday, December 1, 2022

Movie Review: Devotion


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

An excellent war film. 

This film tells the story of a real-life hero, Jesse Brown, who was a naval aviator during the Korean war. He was the first African American naval aviators and broke many racial boundaries. This movie does a wonderful job painting a portrait of this great man. This is especially true during the scenes that show him dealing with racial prejudice and biases from people, who do and don't realize they are treating him differently. Through Jonathan Majors' wonderful performance, you can always see the pain that this treatment causes him, yet he always holds himself with the utmost dignity and respect, never letting what anyone else says, effect how he feels about himself. While he recognizes himself as a flawed man, he also recognizes himself as a man deserving the respect that he is not always given. Yet the character never feels too perfect, to not feel human and relatable to us. While I never met the real man and can't tell you how close this representation is to the real person, I can say that the character here always felt like a real human being. His relationship with his white commanding officer is especially well handled. The two are great friends and you can feel the warmth between them in every scene, even those where they have disagreements. This is where much of the heart of the film lies, and it works wonderfully. Not only do Johnathan Majors and Glen Powell have wonderfully chemistry, but the script looks at this relationship in a very intelligent way. The commanding officer always tries to stand up for his friend, whenever he experiences any racism. However, he is not always much help and can even make things worse. Jesse prefers to stand up for himself and fight his own battles his own way. This creates a wonderful dynamic that allows us to relate to both characters and fully understand why it might cause some conflict between friends. This is not an action movie by any means, only having two real action sequences. However these action sequences are truly wonderful and exciting. They are wonderfully paced and have a great sense of suspense.   

This movie can be broken into two parts. One is before our characters see conflict and the other is when they are fighting. I admit that the first part felt kind of padded out with scenes that weren't necessary and didn't really add much to the story or the characters. If these scenes were left it, it would have created a tighter constructed film. Unfortunately they can affect the pacing and feel of this first part. This film also has a problem that is common in war movies. There are quite a few characters in the main group and to give time to the main two characters, the rest come off as kind of bland and clich├ęd.

None of this can take away from the pure emotional punch this movie delivers in its last act. I don't want to go into much more detail (for those who don't know the true story), but the ending of this film is quite powerful and more than makes up for any flaws it had along the way. 

If you are a fan of war movies, I can highly recommend this one.