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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Robert Lee Minor

Glory (1989)

Yes. People did go to war over the Confederate flag.

During the Civil War, the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was one of the more infamous troupes, due to the fact that they were, for the most part, filled with black men. Some were freemen from the North, others were slaves, but all of them were under the command of Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a commander who is still reeling from the affects of the warfare he’s experienced in his lifetime. Already, before they even set out for battle, there was already plenty of trepidation towards the 54th, because some believed that blacks could not be controlled, or commanded in such a way that would have them prepped and ready for war. Despite this, Shaw, along with his second-in-command (Cary Elwes), try their hardest to not only discipline the soldiers, but even relate and connect with them, as hard as it may seem to do. Some soldiers, like John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), are more than willing to go along with all of the problems they encounter fighting for a country that doesn’t accept them as human beings, whereas others, like Trip (Denzel Washington), aren’t and want the whole unit to know that they aren’t fighting for freedom at all – they’re just fighting to die. Obviously, this causes problems between each and everyone and all culminates in the disastrous attack on the Confederate fort in Charleston, S.C.

Goofy-looking 'stache.

Goofy-looking ‘stache.

Glory is, as most people say, a “classic war film”. Not to take any spit out of that statement, but that’s sort of true. It’s a very good movie, in fact, and one that shows both the humane, as well as harsh realities of the war. At the same time, however, it’s also a film about slavery, and how two races can simultaneously connect to one another, while also having to prepare for a war that they may not actually win and come away alive from. Edward Zwick clearly had a lot on his plate here and it’s one of the many things that makes Glory a solid war film that deserves to be seen by any person out there who either, loves film, history, or a combination of the two.

But, that doesn’t make it a perfect movie, as some may call it.

For one, its extremely dated in the way the story is told. What I mean by this is that rather than getting a story about black people trying to get by under extreme war-conditions, told by a black person, we are told the story through their white commander, as played by Matthew Broderick. It’s understandable that the reason for this is to show how the black soldiers are helping to make Shaw open his eyes a bit more to the realities that, well, believe it or not, African Americans are humans, too. Even though he lives in a world where slavery does exist (although, not for much longer), he knows that these black men are just as honest and humane as he is, which is why we see the tale told, in his own words, through his own eyes, and in his own way.

However, at the same time, it sort of feels like a disservice to the actual black folks in the story. Why are we being told that these fellas are all magical and lovely people, when we can clearly see that happening, right in front of our very own eyes? Did we really need to deal with Shaw’s voice-over to begin with? In all honesty, probably not, because it’s already understood that Shaw will start to warm up and grow closer to these black soldiers that are under his command. So, for anything else to be thrown on, makes it feel like stuffy and, well, a bit schmaltzy. Not saying that it didn’t happen in this way, but the way Shaw is used as our heart and soul of the story, makes Glory seem like it’s taking the easy road out – rather than letting the story be told by those who are most affected to begin with.

But, everything else about Glory, aside from that little nugget of anger, is great.

Like I stated before, Zwick clearly had a lot to work with here, and he does so seamlessly. He gives enough attention to the black soldiers that matter most and show how each and every personality can, at times, clash, while at other times, rub against one another to create a far more perfect and in-sync union. No character here is made out to be a perfect human being, and because as such, it’s easy to sympathize with these characters early-on – and makes it all the more tragic to realize that, in all honesty, they aren’t really fighting for much.

There’s one scene in which this is presented perfectly when Denzel Washington’s Trip goes on about the fact that even when the war is over and everybody goes home, he’ll go back to whatever slum he’s been forced to stay in, whereas Shaw and his white counterparts will be able to head back and relax in his big old mansion, and continue to live his life of total luxury. This scene, above all else, drives home the point that these soldiers may, yes, be fighting for their lives, but are doing so in a way because, quite frankly, they have nowhere else to go, or nothing else better to make up with their time. Most of the soldiers are slaves, so therefore, they have no freedom to begin with; however, even the ones that are free, don’t really have much to do except still be treated as minorities and non-equals, although not as harshly as slaves.

Mediocre 'stache.

Mediocre ‘stache.

So yes, it’s a very sad tale, if you really think about it. But Glory shows that there is some light to be found in the folds. There’s heart, there’s humor, and above all else, there’s humanity here that shows that each and everyone of these soldiers were, race notwithstanding, human beings. And because of this fact, the performances are all the more impressive by showing the depth to which these characters are portrayed.

Though Broderick’s Shaw didn’t really need to be the central figure of this huge story, he’s still solid enough in the role to make me forget about that fact. Ever since Ferris Bueller, it’s known that Broderick has always been trying to get past that image and, occasionally, he’ll strike gold. This is one of those times wherein we see Shaw as not only a clearly messed-up vet of the war, but also one that has enough pride and courage to still go back to the battle and ensure that each and everyone of his men are fit for the same battle he will partake in. Cary Elwes is also fine in showing that, even despite him being more sympathetic to the slavery cause, still has to push his men as far as he possibly can, without over-stepping his superior, obviously.

But, as expected, the best performances come from the three cast-members who get the most attention out of all the other black characters: Andre Baugher, Morgan Freeman, and of course, the star-marking turn from Denzel Washington. As an educated, smart and free black man, Baugher’s character faces a lot more tension from the rest of the black soldiers, and his transition from being a bit too soft for all the training, to becoming a far more rough, tough and gritty one, is incredibly believable. Freeman, too, stays as the heart and soul of the black soldiers and proves to be the one who steps up the most when push comes to shove and a leader is needed. Freeman, in just about everything he does, always seems to become a leader of sorts, so it’s no surprise that the role here fits him like a glove.

However, the one that shines above the rest is, obviously, Denzel Washington as the rebel of the group, Trip.

And the reason why I said “obviously”, is because it’s well-known by now that Denzel was given an Oscar for his work here and understandably so; not only does he steal every scene, but when you get down to the bottom of the story, you realize that he’s the heart and soul of the whole thing. Without him, this would have probably been a normal tale of blacks and whites coming together, to fight the obstacles set against them, and fight a war, but it’s Trip who’s the one that hits everybody’s head and wakes them up to the harsh realities that is the world they live in. Denzel is, at times, hilarious, but also brutally honest, and it’s his voice that keeps this movie’s humanity afloat.

Now, if only the movie had been about him to begin with and not the white dude.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, and well-acted on practically all fronts, Glory is a solid war picture, that also happens to have a message about racial equality that doesn’t try too hard to hit you over the head.

8.5 / 10

No 'stache at all and guess what? He's the coolest one.

No ‘stache at all and guess what? He’s the coolest one.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

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Commando (1985)

Why did we have a war going on in Afghanistan in the first place? One simple phone call to the Governor’s office in “Kellyfornia” and that would have been all. Stupid Americans.

Retired, Elite Commando John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lives a small, quiet, and uneventful life with his daughter (Alyssa Milano). He has that for some time, that is, until a herd of baddies show up at his door, blow the place up to pieces, kidnap his daughter and order him to assassinate a major political figure in Cuba, in hopes that he’ll get his daughter back. All in one piece that is. However, John Matrix isn’t one for following the rules, especially when his family is thrown into the mix, and decides to get rid of that whole plan altogether, and go back and kill each and every one of those baddies – one-by-one, bullet-by-bullet.

I don’t think it takes a genius to know this, but the 80’s was the go-to decade for these types of corny, dumb, over-the-top action movies. Not because the decade itself was corny, dumb, and over-the-top (at least not the one in the middle), but because these movies were bad. However, they knew they were bad and asked you to just take them for what they were, and not expect too much. Nowadays, that’s a little easier said then done, especially in the world today where we have shaky-cam, Bourne movies, and PG-13 gore-fests, but back in those days? Man, it sure as hell helped to be an adrenaline-junkie and have an IQ of 48, and this was just the crown-jewel of them all.

Arnie's family days, pre-housing-maid incident.

Arnie’s loving, and caring family days, pre-housing-maid incident.

And who else better to be the ring-leader in it than The Governator himself, Ahnuld?!?! Here’s what’s interesting about this flick though, that not many people really care to think about: This was one of the first tastes that America really, really got to know and love Ahnuld for all that he was. Of course he had Conan the Barbarian and the Terminator to his name, but neither flick really gave him a chance to show what else he could do in front of the camera, rather than just show off his guns and be a bad-ass. This time, he would actually be given a little thing in the movie industry we like to call “dialogue”, and as terrible as it was, Arnie handled it like a champ and then some.

But then again, everybody knows to expect this from an Arnold movie, hence why so many people loved the hell out of the Last Stand (despite not bothering to actually pay much money and see it), but this was the early days of Arnie-Mania, and nobody knew what they were really getting themselves into. Sure, they saw an Austrian man who delivered his lines as if he was reading off of the cue-card he was handed, and sure, there’s not much to his ability as an emotional wrecking-force that could stretch his character anymore than he already needs to be; but does that even matter when he’s as charming and as lovable as Arnie is? Seriously, the guy’s jacked-up beyond belief, and scares the daylights out of me just by a simple glance. But you can tell that he knows what type of movie he’s in, and knows that they don’t depend on him to do much else other than just be goofy, have fun, and kick some ass.

All of which he does here, and to the sheer-splendor of our eyes.

But Arnie aside, the rest of the movie is what makes it so much fun, and considered the perfect example of what “so bad, it’s good” actually means. Everything that this character, John Matrix, does, is completely idiotic and could never actually happen in real life. Yet, at the same time, you don’t care because you’re having so much fun just watching this guy pick up telephone booths; dodge every bullet that comes by him; utter terrible lines like “I let him go”; and take out a whole army camp of fake-mustached men, that also happen to be out-ranking him about 100 to one. Yes, you can probably expect what’s going to happen next to these “fake-mustached men”, and what’s going to happen to Arnie, but you don’t care how silly or predictable it is. It’s fun and stupid, and downright knows it is. It’s not demeaning, it’s just the typical, 80’s action-fest that practically put the large, Austrian weightlifter, on the map. Thank the heavens for that!

Eh, I've seen bigger.

Eh, I’ve seen bigger.

However though, that said large, Austrian weightlifter, with the exception of the incredible amounts of explosions, gunned-down people, and corny one-liners thrown out all over the place; is sadly, the best thing the movie has going for itself. Dan Hedaya camps it up as the Cuban, wannabe-politician, and Alyssa Milano is nice and pleasant to watch in her younger-years (and I don’t mean in that way, you pervs!), but everything else about is so bland, that it actually brings the movie down, as if that was even possible in the first place. Who I’m basically referring to is Rae Dawn Chong, as the sidekick/supposed love-interest of sorts for John Matrix, who gets all wrapped up into this story out of sure luck and coincidence about 20 minutes in, and is fun and vapid for the time we watch her. That’s for a good couple of minutes we actually meet her, because after that, we realize that she’s going to be in the rest of the damn flick and that there’s no way of getting rid of her. Well, that is unless John Matrix himself turns into a uncontrollable sociopath and goes on a complete rampage, killing everybody and anybody who’s around him. I wouldn’t have wanted to see that, but considering how annoying and terrible Dawn Chong was here, I was praying for it more than a couple of times. But thankfully, no matter how bothersome this chick was, Arnie and his grenade-launchers were there to save the day.

Oh, Arnie. What would the movie world be without your mispronunciation of names and knack for kicking ass?

Consensus: While it is ungodly stupid, nonsensical, ridiculous, and campy, Commando is also a flick that deserves to not be taken seriously, and enjoyed solely as an action movie that knows no limits, or laws of physics for that matter, either. It’s the old-school Arnie we love to see and it’s made even better knowing that this is where he got his real start from.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I'm back." That's literally what he says.

“I’m back.” That’s literally what he says.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider