War Horse Reviews

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:55 am

Not the entire neighborhood, but a lot in their 80s and 90s and at least one over 100.

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:39 am

Yes, a lot of them. His entire neighborhood.
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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Feb 14, 2012 8:50 am

Big Magilla wrote:No, it's based on a book for children. The movie is for old people. It's a big hit with 80 year-olds and up whose parents were in WWI. Trust me, I know a lot of them. :wink:



A lot???

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Feb 14, 2012 8:41 am

No, it's based on a book for children. The movie is for old people. It's a big hit with 80 year-olds and up whose parents were in WWI. Trust me, I know a lot of them. :wink:

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Feb 14, 2012 7:51 am

Not much to say about this one, either. It's a reasonably well-made movie for children, and it's possible that if I had seen it when I was 12 or 13 I would have liked it alot - but honestly, I don't think anyone my age or older can be even remotely interested in the story of a heroic horse. Well, except the members of the Academy, it seems.

Anyway, I couldn't care less for the supposedly irresistible, charming, gorgeous horse Joey - and for the generous, unselfish, good-hearted human characters who populated this (overlong) movie.

Technically, it's certainly well-made, and since it doesn't exploit truly serious issues like 9/11 or racism I would probably rate it (slightly) higher than two other Best Picture nominees... but, again, it's a movie for children, and one that almost certainly won't become a timeless classic. And, I mean... all this money - lots of money - spent on such an uninspired, predictable story... I kept thinking of how many great, lower-budget movies could have been made instead.

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:53 am

Welcome to the magic of the movies.

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:12 am

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Jan 01, 2012 9:24 pm

Big Magilla wrote
The problem is that it evokes memories of other, bettter films, the heights of which it couldn't possibly attain.

Pretty much.

Forgetting The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for a moment, this is Steven Spielberg's first real film in six years and he didn't pick an easy hurdle to jump. For the first half hour or so, it plays like the most unabashedly unironic thing you've seen at the movies in years. I heard lots of sniggering at a rain-soaked Albert pleading with Joey to plow the field. Although this is in my opinion the most successful portion of the film, it does represent a failure on Spielberg's part in calculating how far we can be pushed into schmaltz. With a modicum of restraint, that scene could work, but it's pretty bombastic. I liked the early scenes because War Horse completely embraces its antiquated mawkishness and the images register pretty beautifully. I thought the entire time that if War Horse were in black and white and filmed ages ago, it might be a fondly remembered picture. But then as Magilla says, Spielberg essentially films this odyssey as a series of callbacks that don't really cohere.

There is something else that does not work in War Horse and that is the titular War Horse, Joey. Spielberg never really decides upon Joey's level of awareness. For much of the film, he is a nondescript horse that others rather annoyingly project a special quality onto (QUICK NOTE: I will be spending the next week or so finding unexceptional objects in my house and talking to them like Albert - "Oh, you can do it coffee maker! Why you're the greatest coffee maker in the land! That's wonderful!"). But there are other times where he seems indeed to be a Disney horse who has a heightened awareness of what is going on. Spielberg is basically trying to have it both ways: he is painting a canvas of the times through exchanging a horse from hand to hand, AND he truly believes this is a special horse. I haven't seen the play but it becomes pretty clear that the reunion of boy with childhood horse is a metaphor for returning home to that which you once knew. Spielberg plays it as a reunion between boy and horse, no metaphor whatsoever. And so it doesn't really work.


EDIT: While I am not convinced that Steven Spielberg entirely decided about Joey, John Williams absolutely did. There is nobody working harder in War Horse than John Williams, and in truth his efforts work against the film. The main War Horse theme starts off haunting, creeping up here and there, and then it becomes full on trumpet anthem...and you're going to hear it a lot in this film. I was so fucking sick of this score halfway through the film. Say what you will about Spielberg cribbing from other filmmakers, I do believe that for the most part his venture was an ambitious and noble one in this film. I do believe his heart was in the right place and much of the film does work. And I say this outside whatever room Steven gave John notes, but these emotive cues are garish, loud, and crap.
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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:40 pm

I saw this at the 10 A.M. showing this morning.

The problem with the film is not that it isn't as profound as Au Hasard Bathazar, which it isn't; or that it plays out like Lassie Come Home, which it doesn't really; or that it is schmaltzy, which it isn't either; or that it is manipulative, but aren't all films that to some extent, anyway? The problem is that it evokes memories of other, bettter films, the heights of which it couldn't possibly attain.

The opening scenes are reminiscent of How Green Was My Valley and the closing scene of The Searchers. In-between we get the horse scenes which are right out of Gallant Bess and the war scenes that recall the best of the World War I films - The Big Parade; All Quiet on the Western Front; Journey's End; Paths of Glory, even Oh! Wha ta Lovely War sans the songs, of which it could have used a few.

The entire cast is excellent but none really stand out above the others. Still, it should play well with the same Academy members who voted last year's Best Picture award to The King's Speech. The problem is that The Artist and quite possibly Extrememly Loud and Incredibly Close strike a chord in the same members. Oscar chances: Lots of nominations, but possibly no actual wins.

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Reza » Tue Dec 27, 2011 2:19 am

rolotomasi99 wrote:
dws1982 wrote:Yeah, it's totally uncynical and sentimental and not at all realistic (at least, I'm guessing it's not--I wasn't alive 100 years ago). But I felt like that was VERY much by design. I think part of the problem people are having with this is that they see "war" in the title, and automatically expect something with a bit more edge to it. This is about as edgy as a circle, and it's pretty apparent from the opening shots that Spielberg is working in a very, very different mode from Saving Private Ryan--the framing, the color, etc., all seem like they're intended to evoke storybook images.


I agree. I am as anti-schmaltz as can be. I roll my eyes at films like THE HELP and THE BLIND SIDE. Hell, even Best Picture winners like THE KING'S SPEECH and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT are too sappy for me. However, after about the first ten minutes of this film I realized it was going to be very different from what the trailer made it out to be. Just like you said, people will probably expect a war movie, but it is clearly more of a children's film. In fact, it reminded me so much of BABE. That film was also highly stylized to feel like the cinematic equivalent of a storybook (heck, it even had chapter titles). Like you said dws1982, the village folk and the cottage were also so idealized, and Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski bathed everything with a heavenly glow. That final shot of the film with the family almost in silhouette against the orange and red sky was so ridiculously overblown...and yet I just went with it. I am more willing to give in to sappiness when the film wears it sentimentality on its sleeve.

Unlike some films, it never set out to pretend it was realistic. It was so old fashioned in its filmmaking, you would have thought Spielberg was channeling John Ford. When I watch something like HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, I always remind myself to excuse the maudlin and corny way movies used to be made. However, if I can still appreciate how well made the old films are despite their mawkish tendencies, then I should be able to just let go and appreciate the craftsmanship that Spielberg put into making this film.

My two favorite films of the year may be THE TREE OF LIFE and DRIVE, but that does not mean I cannot enjoy something as saccharine as WAR HORSE. I think if folks go into it expecting old fashioned storytelling, they might find themselves appreciating it better.


I just noticed that it is going to be released soon at a cinema here in Islamabad. I'm actually looking forward to it. I think it's going to be in the same vein as The White Cliffs of Dover or The Black Stallion.

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby rolotomasi99 » Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:32 pm

dws1982 wrote:Yeah, it's totally uncynical and sentimental and not at all realistic (at least, I'm guessing it's not--I wasn't alive 100 years ago). But I felt like that was VERY much by design. I think part of the problem people are having with this is that they see "war" in the title, and automatically expect something with a bit more edge to it. This is about as edgy as a circle, and it's pretty apparent from the opening shots that Spielberg is working in a very, very different mode from Saving Private Ryan--the framing, the color, etc., all seem like they're intended to evoke storybook images.


I agree. I am as anti-schmaltz as can be. I roll my eyes at films like THE HELP and THE BLIND SIDE. Hell, even Best Picture winners like THE KING'S SPEECH and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT are too sappy for me. However, after about the first ten minutes of this film I realized it was going to be very different from what the trailer made it out to be. Just like you said, people will probably expect a war movie, but it is clearly more of a children's film. In fact, it reminded me so much of BABE. That film was also highly stylized to feel like the cinematic equivalent of a storybook (heck, it even had chapter titles). Like you said dws1982, the village folk and the cottage were also so idealized, and Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski bathed everything with a heavenly glow. That final shot of the film with the family almost in silhouette against the orange and red sky was so ridiculously overblown...and yet I just went with it. I am more willing to give in to sappiness when the film wears it sentimentality on its sleeve.

Unlike some films, it never set out to pretend it was realistic. It was so old fashioned in its filmmaking, you would have thought Spielberg was channeling John Ford. When I watch something like HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, I always remind myself to excuse the maudlin and corny way movies used to be made. However, if I can still appreciate how well made the old films are despite their mawkish tendencies, then I should be able to just let go and appreciate the craftsmanship that Spielberg put into making this film.

My two favorite films of the year may be THE TREE OF LIFE and DRIVE, but that does not mean I cannot enjoy something as saccharine as WAR HORSE. I think if folks go into it expecting old fashioned storytelling, they might find themselves appreciating it better.
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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby dws1982 » Mon Dec 26, 2011 8:34 pm

Yeah, it's totally uncynical and sentimental and not at all realistic (at least, I'm guessing it's not--I wasn't alive 100 years ago). But I felt like that was VERY much by design. I think part of the problem people are having with this is that they see "war" in the title, and automatically expect something with a bit more edge to it. This is about as edgy as a circle, and it's pretty apparent from the opening shots that Spielberg is working in a very, very different mode from Saving Private Ryan--the framing, the color, etc., all seem like they're intended to evoke storybook images. This is, essentially, a family movie, closer in spirit to something like Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (a very underrated movie, in my opinion) than Saving Private Ryan. I mean look at the houses--you couldn't imagine a more cozy cottage than the one that Albert and his parents live in, or the one that Niels Arestrup and his grand-daughter live in, or a village more quaint than Albert's home town. So if you get in the right mindset, you can probably get some pleasure out of this like I did. And if you really get in the right mindset, you'll probably be crying buckets at the end. Just like in kids stories, there's always some major form of adversity to triumph over: Mom says Albert will never break the horse, so he sets out to prove her wrong; the landlord says that Joey (who isn't a plowhorse) will never plow the field, so of course Albert works with him and makes a BIG DEAL over getting him to plow the field. And then of course the war comes and it becomes about reuniting the boy and his horse. The war scenes are both the best in the movie, and the ones that don't really quite fit with the wide-eyed nature of the rest of the movie. The actors don't really register all that much (although David Thewlis is looking a lot like Allan Corduner in [i]Topsy-Turvy[i]), but they more or less get the job done. Interesting movie, if you can get on board with what Spielberg's doing here. I think it'll probably do pretty well at the box-office; I saw this at an 11:20 show this morning, and the theater probably had 100 people in it.

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:03 am

Bred Brevet, Ropes of Silicon:

Without hesitation Steven Spielberg lays on the schmaltz and he lays it on thick as War Horse is one scene of calculated manipulation after another. Sometimes it's the "golly gee" performance of first-timer Jeremy Irvine. Sometimes Spielberg simply takes things too far in his attempt to humanize the horse at the center of the story. And then there's the story's transparent narrative as each and every turn in the story is foreshadowed, sometimes two hours in advance. As a result War Horse is so sentimentally sappy it's almost dripping off the screen and it doesn't get better with multiple viewings, it just numbs you even more.

Opening just prior to the First World War in the small English town of Devon, we are introduced to the Naracott family of farmers. Ted Naracott (Peter Mullan) is a drunkard and he's made his way to town to buy a plow horse when a beautiful thoroughbred captures his attention. Despite the fact it's a horse that would be useless for his needs, and if he were to buy it he wouldn't have enough money to pay his landlord (David Thewlis), he decides that horse will be his. Oh, and what do you know? He's bidding against said landlord, but he'll be a monkey's uncle before he lets that man get the best of him and away he walks with a horse he doesn't need and 30 guineas less than he had when he woke up this morning. Rent be damned.

Ashamed, Ted returns home to be greeted by the stern look of his wife (Emily Watson) and the wide-eyed astonishment of his 15-year-old son Albert (Irvine). I'm sorry; I forgot to tell you about the opening scenes in the film where Albert sees this very same horse take its first steps in this world. To think it would ever end up in his possession would be crazy talk, and yet, here he is. But there's a wrinkle, Albert's mother isn't so keen on keeping the equine until Albert promises to train him, "I'll do it mum. I'll train 'im real good, I will. You'll see." Of course she caves and Albie begins his relationship with Joey the horse, training him to take the plow collar and come to him when he mimics the hoot of an owl. It's Screenwriting 101 folks and if you don't think these story elements will come back later on in the film you'd better guess again.

And then comes the further emotional manipulation of the audience and it's done in such a way it's almost galling. In a scene after Ted doesn't have enough money to pay rent on their land (because he bought the wrong kind of horse), he decides he's going to shoot the horse if it won't do what he needs it to do. It's at this moment he actually grabs a shotgun and points it at the horse. What happens next I won't say, but we have now reached the point where we are looking at what may be one of the most ignorant human beings I've seen in a movie, and that's saying something considering the entire population of Devon seems to come out just to see if ol' Joey will plow the family's rocky field. Yes, it's quite clear this is a town lacking in both intelligence and things to do.

Soon plowing fields is the least of the town's concern as Europe goes to war, a turn of events that actually helps save the Naracott's farm. Albert's father ends up selling Joey to a British Captain (Tom Hiddleston), who not only promises he'll return Joey to Albert after the war, but is also quite the accomplished artist who spends time sketching the horse in his spare time. You know, so he can send the pictures back to Albert and show him how magnificent his horse is doing. And with that we have now met the first of a series of gooey gumdrop characters to come into Joey's life and there are many more to come.

Over the course of the war Joey falls in and out of possession, first landing in the hands of two escaped teenage German soldiers as one brother (played by David Kross) tries to save his younger sibling. Next he finds a caring touch with a young French girl who just so happens to be afflicted with osteogenesis imperfecta, but that only lasts for so long as Germans come knocking on her grandfather's door and take Joey off to become a member of the German army. Here we find Joey will be tested as he's one of many horses assigned to pull heavy machinery in a not so subtle attempt at symbolism. All of this culminates in a climactic scene most will be talking about without realizing it's a scene that could be plopped down in the middle of any movie and be just as effective. It's one thing to be manipulative, but the blatancy of it is incredibly frustrating.

When it comes to War Horse, I don't think there is any way you can be down the middle. You are either going to love it and be moved to your core or you are going to eventually get to the point I did and want to yell at the screen, "For the love of God, just give the kid his horse!" Sentimentality is either earned and comes as a result of honest storytelling or it comes by manipulating the story to ensure the greatest impact with the audience, War Horse is the latter in spades.

I won't discount the fact Steven Spielberg, composer John Williams and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski are master storytellers when it comes to using direction, framing, score and composition to their fullest effect. They know exactly what they are doing, be it the scraping of a horse's hooves through the muddy turf or the stark and plastic amber horizon seemingly ripped from the timecode of Gone with the Wind, and while this kind of filmmaking turns me off in a big way, I can't ignore the fact they appear to have made the film they intended to make. Fact is, it's just not for me.

From the outset it felt like War Horse was working on me as Williams' grandiose score played over the lush country hills and Joey's mother lay in the grass, preparing to give birth to the life we would follow for the next two-and-a-half-hours. It's a romantic notion and Spielberg is putting on the moves early and often, I would just prefer he bought me dinner and a drink before he assumed we were going to take our relationship to the next level.


GRADE: D

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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:16 pm

You can't judge a movie by its preview... except when you can. I knew it, I just knew it.

Zach, you've been waiting six months to post that, haven't you?
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Re: War Horse Reviews

Postby Johnny Guitar » Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:56 pm

Au hasard, Seabiscuit. That is all.


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