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2 Music video
Gods and Generals
Warner Bros./Warner Home Video .
R4 . COLOR . 210 mins .
M15+ . PAL
To give you a fair impression of the sort of movie you're in for should you choose to partake in the offerings of this mighty effort, this review shall be written in the fashion that the participants in this feature length movie speak their dialogue.
It is with a heavy heart and much consultation with the Lord Almighty that I come to the conclusion that, should it be deemed so, and so it should, this review must present the opinion of this humble reviewer, a man no more nor no less than any other mere servant of our Lord Most Gracious, that this here film I declare will make your arse much sore and your patience much tested.
"The first rule of Fight Club is never speaketh about Fight Club."
For it is so that when such an undertaking of massive breadth and depth, travelling the annals of history of the great and tumultuous United States of America, and the period under Gods Great Will that a battle was fought internally for the control and allegiance of the country in a Civil War amongst its willing and unwilling people both, that it is a certainty that casualties outside of the usual cannonball beheaded civilian body count are to be expected.
Men, mighty men, yet men humble before their all powerful God, ponder what is deemed their service to their God, then their state, then themselves, while carefully tending to their beards. And what mighty beards they are. They are beards of volume and consistency, solemnity and independence. Beards that stand on their own as able and willing participants of the war and, indeed, this film as well. The beards are formidable opponents, and render many of their owners with the phizog of a well spoken and particularly intense bear.
And while from the audience much tolerance is to be shown to the beards, many long and testing stretches must also be endured in the epic discursion of the amount of walking done up one hill and down another and the insistence on the use of the bayonet in rending the enemy fully and totally dead as opposed to just freshly non-living. What mighty conviction tho! Spoken as if the commands were handed down from above from the great Almighty General in the sky, the dialogue is a testament of the seriousness the actors felt for their place in this vision and is presented with great pomposity and solemnity.
"Rough night? I use Libra Tampons. They have wings or something."
Mention must also go to the 33 million Civil War re-enactment lunatics, without which surely an undertaking of this magnitude would not have occurred. Each and every one of these Godfearing, uniform wearing, musket bearing, horse bothering beardos have lived out what is surely their very dream in the legitimisation of their follies by having it put on film for posterity and the endless tormentation of their family and future progeny at Christmas and Thanksgiving Day when this DVD shall be pulled forth from the shelving and placed with great care and duty into their DVD players for an evening which will make the humble slide night seem a downright blessing in comparison.
Emotionally, in between the scenes of toe to toe madness that passed for warfare back in the day of old before long range battle from the comfort of a ditch and a control room was to be the norm, we are set upon by vignettes which attempt to romanticise the stories of those whose destinies were to be entwined in the futility of their endeavours. Strings soar grandly to sweeten the parting of lovers and man and woman, pianos etch out an emotional backdrop to the men leaving their families and homes to secure their freedom at all costs.
"Hey! Someone invented a Porta-Loo!"
It is in these (for many) penultimate scenes of battle where the true attraction to this feature beds. Scenes of battle, sometimes epic in scope (as is much of the film in general) explores the steely resolve of even the sturdiest man. Strategy and limitations of weaponry placed enemies within the depressing reality of an almost arm's length away firing an unwieldily single shot rifle or cannon right into each others face, yet unwaveringly ever marching forward in the hope of having enough men left to face off the opposition.
Yet as grand and epic as it seems, the overpowering sensation instilled in the viewer, by now suffering from drowsiness, mental exhaustion and dehydration, is of a film, nay, of history, that just goes on and on and on. It does beggar the question of at whom, if I may ask in all forthright honesty, could this DVD in this country, be pitched at? At home, in its native land amongst the denizens who so dearly hold the event and their perpetual re-creation close to their bosom, this is easier to answer. But here, the answer is perhaps not so obvious.
It makes for a truly vexing proposition, does it not?
Hahaha... yes, surely it does. I bid you a hearty farewell, for now my brain has broke.
With many lush and broad fields trampled upon, plains flooded in blood and encampments destroyed by the machinations of the encroaching war machines, it stands to reason that the transfer of this film to DVD calls for almost perfection in all regards lest the sight of intrusive flaws shake the viewer from their revelry of emotion and destruction. It goes without mention that the extensive running time also demands a dab hand in placing all the data with utmost care and consideration. Huzzah goes out the call from the traditional checkpoints, for this DVD has achieved all that is required and makes a splendiferous appearance on our displays. Stretched to all points left and right, hither and thither, in an aspect that calls forth the use of the numeric ratio of 2.40:1, clad in a beauteous enhancement of 16:9 righteousness, the scenery is rendered in a fashion worthy of the grandness and solemnity of the occasion. Defined, detailed, brimming with depth and clarity, it surely is a thing of wonder and is a pleasure to behold.
But lo! The point at which the disc must be flipped onto its backside and reinserted for the continuation of the feature on side 2 is in my estimation poorly placed and I believe intrusively jarring to your immersion in the spectacle.
Gadzooks! Lulled by the stolid yet perfectly delineated audio streaming from the player at 348kbps, it initially drives a steady stream of monotonous dialogue sans embellishment. However, before long you are shaken from your slumber by the barrage emanating of the battle with cannons a-roar, muskets a-blaze and shot rending flesh from bone shaking you from your seat. It calls forth the support of all channels, crisscrossing the room during moments of frenetic activity that shows wonderful clarity and ambience, and drawing upon your subwoofer to add power down in the nether regions of the soundtrack, shaking with the authority of brutally primitive cannon fire decimating the oncoming hordes.
Beginning with the first horse drawn cab off the rank extras-wise is the Introduction by Ted Turner in which he rambles along a bit about his attraction to the Civil War and his involvement in this film. Why? Because he paid for the film, that’s why. First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the sugar, then you get the DVD introduction.
Joining the director in an audio commentary are two scholarly types who lend a decidedly educational air to the proceedings. More than anything, this is a commentary you’d listen to if you wanted to learn more about the events portrayed in the film (assuming the comments expressed are kosher), not so much about the film itself. In this regard it is exceptionally enlightening, but more casual listening might find it hard going. Also, the commentary is presented in sectional fashion, jumping to scenes as the commentary progresses and skipping quiet sections to form a truncated version of the film. A good idea, well implemented, but then again this method takes disc space away from the film by replicating the relevant footage in its own stream (around 3GB total over both sides) as opposed to a normal audio only commentary stream which would have only taken around 400 MB at most. There’s something to think about if you’re bored one day.
Something I wouldn’t have expected is the inclusion of two music videos, one from mumbling grumble bum Bob Dylan who toffs around like an undertaker in scenes drawn from the film and then a clip from Mary Fahl who has a voice that sounds so manlike that I must ponder why they didn’t just have a man sing it in the first place. Suffice to say, these are hardly videos that will have you shakin’ your ass’ in your lounge.
The theatrical trailer is suitably dramatic and stirring. Unfortunately, it also contains my two pet hates in trailers, namely that voiceover guy and the words he loves to speak, “In a world turned upside down..”
Journey to the Past, although given a substantial running time of 22 minutes (substantial for a featurette that is), errs in allowing black actress Donzaleigh Abernathy to hijack the show with her view on slavery, which appears to be at odds with the views presented by virtually everyone else in this discussion. This featurette has its redeeming moments, but her personalisations about slavery tend to annoy and overpower your overview.
The Authenticities of the Film and The Life of Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson featurettes focus on the creation of the film, primarily the shooting of the battle in the town of Fredericksburg (actually shot in a place called Harpers Ferry which still retains the 19th century look and required little to suit the film) and the real life Stonewall Jackson respectively. Asides from being informative and not without its interesting points in both featurettes, the most telling statement I found was in the discussion of Jackson: “We Americans may not be unique, but we certainly are the champions of commercialising our past.” That the participants in this featurette can speak so reverently of Jackson, like their own God of sorts, which is apt considering their own deeply religious convictions, the admittance that their own culture tends to bastardise all they hold dear is revealingly honest.
The Visit Virginia featurette is nothing more than a 30 second tourism ad. I did learn from it that their slogan is “Virginia is for Lovers”. Lovers of what? War? And dressing up like a soldier and pretending to shoot your friends? Bloody Americans, I’ll never figure them out.
To wrap up, I have to say this is long, so bloody long. No I’m not repeating the words I’ve heard directed at me many a time. I’m talking about this film. Stretched out over both sides and all layers of a DVD-18, the story has much to say and show, but its content will stretch those with little tolerance for history. Find your arse groove early on though and you’ll possibly be able to sit through it with minimal pain and maybe even learn a thing or three, even if it is confusing and at times a biased retelling full of itself.
The A/V quality is very fine, with justice done to the scenery and the battles. Not much to complain about with the selection of special features, as they sufficiently pad out what is a film hardly in need of documentary support, seeing as it is in its own way a documentary itself.
I’d get up to applaud the effort that has gone into this, but my arse has gone to sleep. Make of that what you will.