I know that there is a lot of anxiety floating around. It may be time to turn off the news and watch an old movie this weekend. Here are a few that you might have missed and at the same time might enjoy. They are offered in no particular order, but I enjoyed them all. You may too. I did not recommend films that were previously recommended on this blog (within the past few years, anyway).

The Game (1997) Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is a successful banker who keeps mostly to himself. When his estranged brother Conrad (Sean Penn) returns on his birthday with an odd gift — participation in a personalized, real-life game — Nicholas reluctantly accepts. Initially harmless, the game grows increasingly personal, and Orton begins to fear for his life as he eludes agents from the mysterious game’s organizers. With no one left to trust and his money gone, Orton must find answers for himself.

The Package (1989) Army Sgt. Johnny Gallagher (Gene Hackman) is reassigned after he angers Col. Glen Whitacre (John Heard) at a meeting of American and U.S.S.R. military types. Gallagher’s new job is to shepherd detainee Thomas Boyette (Tommy Lee Jones) from Europe to the U.S. But when Gallagher loses track of his prisoner, he asks his ex-wife, a servicewoman with access to Boyette’s background data, for help. As the chase leads Gallagher to Chicago, the intrigue ramps up in way he couldn’t have imagined.

Rough Riders (1997 Mini-Series) In 1898 the US government decided to intervene on the side of the Cuban rebels in their struggle against Spanish rule. Assistant Navy Secretary Theodore Roosevelt decides to experience the war first hand by promoting and joining a volunteer cavalry regiment. That regiment, later known as the Rough Riders, brings together volunteers from all corners of the nation and all walks of life. They include a stagecoach robber, Henry Nash, and patrician men. When Roosevelt and his men finally land on Cuba, they face ambush, intense enemy fire, and a desperate, outnumbered charge up a defended hill.

Heat (1995) Master criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is trying to control the rogue actions of one of his men, while also planning one last big heist before retiring. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Hanna (Al Pacino) attempts to track down McCauley as he deals with the chaos in his own life, including the infidelity of his wife (Diane Venora) and the mental health of his stepdaughter (Natalie Portman). McCauley and Hanna discover a mutual respect, even as they try to thwart each other’s plans.

The film has a realistic feel to it and I found myself drawn to the plot.

The Island (1995) One of my favorite films.

Futuristic thriller about a contained, seemingly utopian facility in the mid-21st century. The residents hope to be chosen to go to the Island – the last uncontaminated place on Earth, but when one inhabitant discovers that there are sinister forces at work, he and a female friend make a daring escape.

No spoilers – but I think that you will enjoy it.


The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) Yes, it’s the remake, but I think that you should consider viewing it.

The film is about the folly of war, and the poor state of the British Army and its leadership during the Crimean War (1853–1856). Britain had not fought in a European theatre since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and the army had become sclerotic and bound by bureaucracy. Tactical and logistical methodology had not advanced in forty years, and the whole ethos of the army was bound in outmoded social values.

The anti-hero is a relatively competent officer, Captain Louis Nolan (David Hemmings). A veteran of the British Indian Army, Nolan is unusual in the hierarchy of his day both for having combat experience and for having acquired his commission through merited promotion as opposed to purchase. As such he regards many of his colleagues, who are mostly aristocratic dilettantes casual about squandering their subordinates’ lives, with contempt.

Nolan’s superior is the gruff Lord Cardigan (Trevor Howard), who treats the regiment under his command as his personal property and who dislikes Nolan as an “Indian” officer with a native Indian servant. Cardigan’s men are typical of the common soldiers of their day; though reasonably well-equipped – compared with the Russians – they are also poorly trained and supplied. They endure squalid living conditions and are punished mercilessly for the slightest missteps in their duties. Nolan soon gets into a highly publicised feud with Cardigan, who is angry at him for ordering Moselle wine at a banquet where all guests were to drink champagne.

You know about the charge against the Russian guns, you’ve read and heard the poem.


  1. The Game and The Island are excellent entertainment. I highly recommend them.
    The City of Lost Children is a slick bit of Sci-Fi. It’s set in a dystopian future where a scientist is stealing children’s dreams to slow his aging. Creepy, cool and with several unexpected plot twists.
    The Army of Darkness is my favorite movie of all time! It is not a good movie, it is a FUN movie! It’s got my boy Bruce Campbell as the reluctant hero. Undead, magic, crazy inventions and boomsticks and a determined, slightly confused hero trapped in time, surrounded by evil and low on gas. We know how that goes.
    Disconnecting and enjoying some movies is a terrific idea. Take care.

  2. Interesting list of films. I’ve seen three of them: Heat, Rough Riders, and Charge of the Light Brigade. The last I saw about 50 years ago so I don’t remember much about it. It is free on Prime so I suppose I’ll take a look at it tonight. The 1936 Errol Flynn version was fun though not terribly realistic. I’ll have to see how they compare.

  3. Good call(s). I think I’ll watch Island and revisit Light Brigade.

    PS. Always liked the way GMF captures Cardigan in the Flashman books. Amusing.

  4. My favorite on the list is “Rough Riders”. Many powerful moments such as when Delchaney explains why he cannot accompany them to Cuba.

    For “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, I recommend the book “The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade” by Cecil Woodham-Smith. From Amazon–

    “Nothing in British campaign history has ever equaled the tragic farce that was the charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War’s Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854. In this fascinating study, Cecil Woodham-Smith shows that responsibility for the fatal mismanagement of the affair rested with the Earls of Cardigan and Lucan, brothers-in-law and sworn enemies for more than thirty years.”

      • “Nothing in British campaign history has ever equaled the tragic farce that was the charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War’s Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854.

        The Retreat From Kabul in 1842 must come close…….

        “Legends of the Fall” is a good movie, maybe you have mentioned it before?

      • If Mike W. pops on, we need to get his opinion since he was with the Aussie Special Forces in Viet Nam.

        • In response to your comment Larry.

          Firstly, I have two provisos to make. One, I was never posted to Nui Dat so never experienced living conditions on the hill nor operations from there. I worked elsewhere, on most occasions being the sole Australian present, and answered to other people. Two, I have never seen the film based on William Nagle’s book “The Odd Angry Shot”.

          I have, however, read the book several times. It sits, along with selected other books, on my library shelves back at my Sydney home. I received my copy, a first edition, as a Christmas gift some forty odd years ago, from a then girlfriend. It is readily apparent reading it that, although the work purports to be fiction, it is Nagle’s autobiography of his time in Viet Nam. The language, humour, and attitudes, depicted are those of your average Digger, of that period in time, in the field.

          In the Australian Regular Army, in the 1960s, there were many Harry’s (one of the principal characters in the book). Professional Privates and Corporals, who never sought to go higher, but who had the skills and combat experience necessary to, if circumstances were to necessitate it, command a platoon in action, and, for a very select few, even a company. Many of these men were veterans of the Second World War, many were veterans of Korea, and many were veterans of the Malayan Emergency. Some were veterans of at least two of these, and some were veterans of all three, but all were veterans of at least one. In fact, my first platoon Sergeant was an ex-Wehrmacht Major, who had fought against the Australians in North Africa and the British and Americans in Europe, and who had made his way to Australia after the end of the Second World War.

          I have spoken to several friends of mine, who did experience the living conditions and operational environment at Nui Dat, some more than once. All agree with Old Grump that, although this is a movie, it is as close as you can get. Many, although not all, said that the sense of realism, and attention to detail, was superior to the majority of American produced war films. This is not surprising, as it appears the film makers had the cooperation of the Australian Army, and that the close country scenes were shot at the Jungle Warfare Training Centre, Canungra. At that time most of the cadre staff would probably have been veterans of Vietnam, with others who were veterans of Borneo, and some who would have been veterans of both. There possibly may have even been some veterans of the Malayan Emergency, too. These men, with their combat experience, would not have suffered fools gladly and would have ensured that any inclination of the film makers to “go cowboy” would have been swiftly nipped in the bud.

          Having said all this I did, on one occasion, visit Nui Dat. We were looking for a particular gentleman (for want of a better term) and the information we had led us to believe that he had returned to his ancestral hamlet, one among several, close to the Long Hai hills in Phuoc Tuy province, to hide out. An American colleague and I decided to drive to Nui Dat (why we decided not to fly I cannot recall. I think it might have had something to do with us desiring to have a beer or two, and a swim in the sea, at Vung Tau, before heading back to Saigon before nightfall) to speak to recon and intelligence personnel at the Task Force regarding their holdings on the target (if any), and their in-depth knowledge of the actual terrain and buildings in, and around, the various hamlets. In particular we were after maps, or hand drawn diagrams, of the various structures, in the various hamlets and any information they had on the residents. For some reason, once onto the base, it felt like being in a zoo. Everyone seemed to want to look at us. Very unnerving, as we always tried to keep a low profile. Whether this was because we wore tiger stripes, with no markings (instead of our usual black pyjamas), that we were armed to the teeth, me carrying a shortened Ithica shotgun, with a duckbill choke, and my colleague an AK-47, or that we were followed everywhere by a Nung, likewise armed to the teeth, I do not know. It was though, a very successful visit, with us gaining a lot more information and intelligence than we had expected.

          And yes, we did have a couple of beers, a swim in the sea, and we made it back to Saigon before nightfall.

  5. The Island from 2005 better matches your description.

    Thanks for the recs as am in need of a distraction as well you guessed. Charge of the Light Brigade esp. appeals.

  6. Diversions are good, especially after this week…too much messing with the pigs and you end up in the slop with them. Great selections.

  7. “Heat” is an excellent movie. Deniro and Pacino played very well against each other. Pacino is one of the best actors out there. From the “Godfather” movies, to movies like “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Simone” (aka “S1m0ne”), he always delights with his performances.

    I think I’ll go dig through the DVD archive after I blow the leaves out of the gravel beds along the fence line.

    • I was at a training for work several years ago and the class was asked about their favorite movie.
      Without hesitation my answer was, “Heat.”
      The instructor paused and said, “interesting choice.”

      I don’t know why, but when you said you were going to “blow the leaves out of the gravel bed.” I momentarily envisioned you holding a clacker.

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