Hell's Angels (1930) - Brothers Roy and Monte Rutledge ditch their native Oxford for the Royal Flying Corps on the onset of World War I. With dispositions as different as night and day, Roy, played by James Hall, is madly in love with a beguiling girl named Helen, played by Jean Harlow. Only while at a lavish dance does Helen pursue Monte seductively, with the two withdrawing afterwards to her home. Meanwhile, after the news that war has been declared on Germany and France, their German friend Karl, played by John Darrow, is ordered back to his country to enlist in the war and fight Britain; a sentence he resents on account that he considers the English his friends. Karl ultimately ends up on a Zeppelin (a German airship) with orders to bomb an area in London. It is while on this perilous mission that Karl's fate is sealed as the airship is repeatedly tracked by British fighter planes and is eventually brought down by a dauntless pilot; giving his life and smashing his plane into the Zeppelin leaving it to its descent while engulfed in flames.
As the film progresses Roy and Monte volunteer for a risky mission: to bomb a German munitions facility using only a German plane to avoid suspicion. Before they commence to their duty, however, Roy and Monte decide to enjoy what could possibly be their last night together and Roy goes off and looks for Helen, only to find her in the arms of another man. (Sometime in 1933, The Motion Picture Production Code (MPAA) drafted a document that set the standards on what was acceptable in motion pictures; the first of its kind in Hollywood history. A lewd scene in the movie involving Helen and a drunken man is a fine example of pre-code behavior). With Helen now out of the picture, the two brothers get drunk; but not enough to affect their stamina for the stealthy mission just hours before them.
Hell's Angels was really a movie ahead of its time. Director Howard Hughes wasn't afraid to do anything if he knew it would be beneficial to the picture, and cost evidently wasn't an issue because the results were tremendous. The aerial sequences were superb for its period, and even today, because it was acheived through the means of practical effects and obviously required an aviator's skill. The color sections of the film (the destruction of the Zeppelin in particular), were very well done, creating the right atmosphere for a highly elevated airship in danger of being compromised. The sacrificing of the German airman falling down a darkened pit without even so much as a whimper was both frightening and unnerving. This scene is a sparkling example of how certain images triumph over words, and it never leaves your mind. What I found most wonderful of all in this film was an 8-minute Technicolor scene featuring Jean Harlow; the only color footage that exists of the actress and she looks just as great if not better in color.
It's understandable that some viewers may argue that the movie is either dated or corny, but anyone with any sense will tell you it is never wise to judge a movie like this by today's standards, as there are many scenes in this picture that endure even today.
Flags of Our Fathers (2005) - It's strange. I couldn't find anything wrong with the movie, but also there was really nothing worth recommending. I did enjoy the war bond scenes, though, and it's nice to see something like that incorporated into the story, something often overlooked in contemporary WWII movies and in those rare cases where we get a glimpse of wartime society.
Munich (2006) - I don't watch a lot of the movies made today, but I thought this was THE best film I've seen of the decade. It's violent, powerful, disturbing, and it raises questions and effects you long after it's finished. Superb film.
Empire of the Sun (1987) - Spielberg is such a pro at telling a good story. Anybody who doesn't acknowledge this needs to sit down with someone and have their head examined. Empire of the Sun tells a great story, and it looks good. I think this was one of Spielberg's misses and it's such a shame. Very good film.
Amistad (1997) - Djimon Hounsou is really good in this. I think Spielberg really gets the audience's emotions working by the scenes this movie showcases. They are powerful ones. The music is really good, too. Great film.
"As a human being, I don't suppose I have any real individuality. I'm the people I've met; I'm a mixture of everything I've ever read or seen. I'm everyone I've ever loved."
My blog: All Things Classic