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DVD `FLAGS' RAISES AWARENESS OF WWII.

Byline: Rob Lowman Entertainment Editor

Clint Eastwood's ``Flags of Our Fathers'' -- the first of his two looks at the epic World War II battle of Iwo Jima -- may seem like merely another salute to the ``greatest generation,'' but the filmmaker has slyly dug deeper, deconstructing and showing us the disconnect and toll of war.

In February 1945, when the battle began, the Allies were wrapping up the conflict in Europe. Looming ahead was the invasion of Japan, with taking the volcanic island of Iwo Jima -- considered by the Japanese to be sacred soil -- the first step. Dug in were some 20,000 Japanese soldiers (their story is told in the companion film, ``Letters From Iwo Jima'') with essentially a suicide order to hold the island till death.

The first objective of the Allies was to take the island's high point, which they did in five days at a great cost. An American flag was planted atop the mountain. A second one was later planted when an officer wanted the first flag. That second planting was immortalized by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

When the Army and U.S. politicians saw the photo, they seized on it, seeing a way to build up flagging support for a war that had already gone on for more than three years and cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars. An invasion of Japan would cost more.

A campaign to sell war bonds was mounted using the three surviving members of the flag team -- John Bradley, a medic nicknamed Doc (Ryan Phillippe), Ira Hayes (an American Indian played heartbreakingly by Adam Beach) and Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford).

Never mind that they didn't consider themselves heroes -- not that they hadn't been in battle -- or that they, particularly Hayes, felt survivors' guilt.

Eastwood opens with the rockets' red glare. It's not the battle, but fireworks over a stadium in Chicago, where the three men were re-creating the scene, planting a flag into a papier-mache mountain before a huge crowd on a star-spangled night.

Iwo Jima, by contrast, is nearly colorless, as if the battle itself had drained the life out of the island. Only the explosions and blood stand out against the stark landscape.

Eastwood deftly cuts between the horrors of the battle and hollow spectacle of the war-bond campaign. In America, they are cheering for a PR ploy that has taken their minds off the reality of the war. Meanwhile, the soldiers in the battle grow more disconnected from their own humanity as they watch their buddies maimed and killed, knowing they may be next.

If any of this seems to echo current events, it's no surprise. Eastwood -- no stranger to violent films -- isn't making a political statement, but he's casting a cold eye on the toll taken by violence and war.

``Hollywoodland,'' a film about the 1959 murder/suicide of George Reeves -- TV's Superman, tries to be a mystery, but the filmmakers seem lost in the shadows, trying to make something out of another tawdry Tinseltown tale.

Despite a reasonable start with a role in the 1939 ``Gone With the Wind,'' the hunky Reeves (Ben Affleck) never made it out of Saturday afternoon serials. When one -- ``Superman'' -- becomes a TV hit in the '50s, Reeves, instead of taking the money and running, feels trapped, longing for respect in a real role.

The show eventually folds, and a couple of years later, Reeves is found dead with a bullet in his head. Did he kill himself? Was it his new girlfriend (Robin Tunney) who pulled the trigger, or did a studio exec (Bob Hoskins) have a hit man take care of him because of Reeves' mistreatment of the executive's wife (Diane Lane).

We only supposedly care about this because a detective (Adrien Brody) with problems of his own has been hired by Reeves' strange mother (Lois Smith) to find out the truth.

Revelations pile up, but what do they mean? Not much.

Augusten Burroughs' best-selling memoir, ``Running With Scissors,'' is the dysfunctional-family movie of the week. Director/writer Ryan Murphy, a creator of ``Nip/Tuck,'' is obviously no stranger to weirdness. Annette Bening as Augusten's mother, Deirdre, is splendid as your classic crazy mom, except her delusion is she thinks she a great writer. Being an alcoholic, her husband (Alec Baldwin) doesn't notice her craziness. Augusten seems to believe her, but maybe he just wants love from his often-neglectful mom, who spends much of her time at the house of her therapist (Brian Cox), which is something of a looney bin.

``Running With Scissors'' is amusing at times, but the little comic horror pieces never connect into a bigger picture.

You'll find Michael Gondry's ``The Science of Sleep'' either charming or odd -- or charmingly odd.

Its hero, a fretful young man named Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal), is a graphic artist with a vivid imagination and little worldly confidence. Nevertheless, after returning to Paris from Mexico, where his mother has gotten a job, Stephane develops an attraction for neighbor Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). But reality isn't his strong suit.

``Since he was 6, he's inverted dreams and reality,'' his mom notes.

Writer-director Gondry, who fomerly paired up with Charlie Kaufman on ``Human Nature'' and ``Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,'' then heads into an ``Alice in Wonderland'' world of whimsy, where the laws of physics need not apply.

``Science of Sleep'' ends up being like a pleasant daydream. It may not mean much but that daydreams are their own reward.

Other titles to keep in mind: ``Eddie Murphy -- Delirious,'' his very funny 1983 concert film; Paul Mazursky's odd 1973 romantic-comedy ``Blume in Love''; ``The Alfred Hitchcock Box Set'' of the great director's early works; and the charming family animated film ``The Last Unicorn.''

Rob Lowman (818) 713-3687

robert.lowman(at)dailynews.com

NEW FILMS

``Flags of Our Fathers'' (Paramount; $29.99)

``Hollywoodland'' (Universal; $29.98)

``Flicka'' (Fox; $29.99)

``Running With Scissors'' (Columbia; $26.96)

``The Science of Sleep'' (Warner; $27.98)

``The Grudge 2 -- Unrated Director's Cut'' (Columbia; $28.95)

Boynton Beach Club (Columbia; $26.96)

``Trust the Man'' (Fox; $27.98)

OLDER FILMS

``Eddie Murphy -- Delirious'' (Entertainment; $19.98)

``Blume in Love'' (Warner; $19.98)

``The Alfred Hitchcock Box Set'' (``The Ring,'' ``The Manxman,'' ``Murder!'' ``The Skin Game,'' ``Rich and Strange'') (Lionsgate; $39.98)

``A Summer Place'' (Warner; $19.98)

``The Heiress'' (Universal; $14.98)

``Crossing Delancey'' (Warner; $19.98)

``Here Comes Mr. Jordan'' (Columbia; $19.94)

``The Clock'' (Warner; $19.98)

``Romeo & Juliet -- The Music Edition'' ($19.98)

``All Quiet on the Western Front'' (Universal; $14.98)

``Miracle in the Rain'' (Warner; $19.98)

``Going My Way'' (Universal; $14.98)

``Arabian Nights'' (Universal; $14.98)

TELEVISION

``Charmed -- The Complete Seventh Season'' (Paramount; $49.99)

``Mad About You -- The Complete Third Season'' (Columbia; $39.95)

``Anything but Love -- Season 1'' (Fox; $39.98)

OF SPECIAL INTEREST

``Joseph Campbell -- The Hero's Journey'' (Acacia; $19.98)

``Joseph Campbell )

Sukhavati (Acacia; $19.98)

KIDS/FAMILY

``Last Unicorn'' ($19.98)

``Cinderella III -- A Twist in Time'' (Disney; $29.99)

``Hellboy -- Sword of Storms'' (Anchor Bay; $19.98)

``Strawberry Shortcake -- The Sweet Dreams Movie'' (Fox; $19.98)

``My Little Pony -- A Very Pony Place'' (Paramount; $16.99)

``Charlie and Lola, Vol. 3: My Little Town'' (BBC/Warner; $14.98)

``Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown'' /

``A Charlie Brown Valentine'' (Paramount; $19.99)

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Sgt. Mike Strank (Barry Pepper) leads the men who would raise the famous flag on Iwo Jima.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 6, 2007
Words:1242
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