(E08) If it seems like forever since 'The Pacific' spent any time with John Basilone, that's because it has been. As Basilone himself said, it's been more than a year since he saw action. Since he couldn't just go back into the heart of the war, he asked for the next best thing: the opportunity to train the next batch of marines who'd be heading out to back up his friends still on the line.
Other than a brief interlude with Sledge, who's back at base camp with a Snafu slipping toward hypochondria, we spent the entire hour with Sgt. Basilone. In doing so, the writers and producers managed to find yet another facet of the war to show us. The emotional struggles of a soldier away from the war, and the conflicting ties that pull him in both directions at once.
This week, I finally saw the value of the opening narrative with Tom Hanks interspersed with interviews with the World War II veterans. They're presented to offer background information for the events to come. Most of us have never seen anything like the war in the Pacific, so we wouldn't know about things like the intricate tunnels the Japanese used on Peleliu.
The more relaxed pace of the episode allowed us to get to know some of our principal cast members more intimately. Particularly Robert Leckie and John Basilone, who had very different experiences in Melbourne. Basilone was the decorated war hero, given the highest honor he could possibly achieve, while Leckie found something even sweeter: a woman.
(E02) After watching this second installment of 'The Pacific,' I think I have a feeling why people who've seen further along are talking about how things pick up once we get into the next episode. With these first two parts, we spent virtually the entire time on Guadalcanal, and there was virtually no time for any sort of character connections.
After this, the 1st Marines are finally getting off the island to move onto their next campaign, which means a change of scenery, and a chance for the impact of what they've just gone through to start hitting both the marines themselves, and the audience. Just like them, we've had virtually no time to process all the horror and warfare these men endured on the island.
While last week spotlighted most of the hour on the beauty of the island, this week it was the brutality of war itself that took center stage, with almost constant gunfire from the opening credits to the closing credits.
Unlike its companion miniseries, 'Band of Brothers,' which followed the legendary Easy Company throughout the war in Europe, 'The Pacific' focuses more on the individual perspectives of four Marines -- Pvts. Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) and Sidney Phillips (Ashton Holmes) in the 1st Marine Regiment; Sgt. John Basilone (Jon Seda) in the 7th Marine Regiment; and Phillips' best friend, Pvt. Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello), in the 5th Marine Regiment -- as they struggle to keep their spirits high while fighting an unrelenting enemy -- the Japanese.
AOL TV had the honor of speaking to 85-year-old WWII veteran Dr. Sidney Phillips, the only one still with us (Basilone was fatally wounded at Iwo Jima, and Leckie and Sledge, both of whom wrote memoirs on which 'The Pacific' is based, both passed away in 2001). Phillips tells us what it felt like to see his war-time experiences and those of his best friend Sledge depicted on screen.
Read the interview after the jump
Reviews of the first installment of HBO's ten-part mini-series 'The Pacific' have been mixed -- I liked it, though -- and ratings figures aren't in yet. Nevertheless, the network has taken the bold step of putting that entire episode online for free viewing; you can catch it here. Is it a response to poor ratings -- even though we don't know those figures yet, the network likely does -- or just an attempt to lure people in who don't already have HBO?
The premiere was more style over substance, which is one of the major problems critics had with it, but it did offer some stunning visuals and established an atmosphere very different than 'Band of Brothers.' As a companion piece of sorts to the modern classic 'Brothers,' brought to us by the same production team including Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, expectations were pretty high for 'The Pacific' coming out of the gate.
As the title suggests, this 10-part miniseries will focus on American soldiers fighting in Japan, and is largely based on the memoirs of three WWII veterans, two of whom share writing credit on the series.
With Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks spearheading the project, in addition to writers from 'Band of Brothers' and 'The Wire,' it's a little surprising that there are no big-name actors attached. However, the ensemble's anonymity is no doubt meant to enhance the series' intended realism. According to executive producer Gary Goetzman, 'The Pacific' aims to present the events of WWII Japan as truthfully as possible. "The truth is always much more amazing than anything that you can make up," he said.
Now I'm ready for this long-delayed continuation, as we see Churchill from the heights of power during WWII to his waning years. But I'm not sure how difficult a transition it's going to be with these key roles recast. It's no knock against Brendan Gleeson (Winston Churchill) or Janet McTeer (Clemmie Churchill). I've just so fallen in love with Finney and Redgrave in those roles, I worry that I'll be comparing their performances rather than enjoying the film.
"102 Minutes That Changed the World" is a piece on 9/11, culling footage from pros and amateurs, including two terrified New York University seniors in a high-rise dorm just blocks from the World Trade Center. They started shooting the smoking North Tower after it was hit by the first plane, then captured the second plane hitting the South Tower.
The 102-minute piece will premiere without commercials at 9 p.m. on Sept. 11. Done in "real time" format, it'll feature footage from more than 100 sources, pieced together in chronological order, without narration, to provide what History is calling a "seamless historical record of that day."
"Gee whiz, that crazy nut just shot at me! I'd like to give that silly so-and-so a bop on the noggin, by golly!"
Yeah, I just can't imagine a World War II veteran talking about his experiences and not using a few expletives, and there are more than a few curse words bandied about in Ken Burns' seven-part documentary The War. The swearing comes not only from the soldiers themselves who use phrases like "holy s**t" and "***hole," but from the narrator, who explains what the military acronyms "FUBAR" and "SNAFU" stand for (if you don't know, Google it).
Like everyone else, I'm looking forward to the end of summer reruns, and for the new fall season to kick off over the next several weeks. In addition to returning shows and new offerings from the networks and studios, I'm also quite interested in Ken Burns' new documentary for PBS, The War, which debuts on September 23 at 8:00 p.m. and is scheduled to air in seven parts. Check your listings for airtimes in your area.
I've been drawn to the idea of a lengthy documentary about World War II partially for the historical aspect, but moreso because of the human aspect. Growing up, my exposure to that era was through films featuring rugged heroes and clean, bloodless battles. Combine this with the solipsism inherent in all young people, and the result is a skewed --if not completely false-- perspective on what it was really like to be alive during that era, not only for the soldiers on the battlefields overseas, but also for the people back home.
Ken Burns' upcoming PBS documentary about World War II has angered some veterans and leaders in the Latino community.
The protest was sparked by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, who runs an oral history project about Latino veterans for the University of Texas.
Burns points out that not every story could be told in The War, his 14-hour documentary slated to air on PBS this September, but the documentary contains no interviews with Latino soldiers whatsoever. Unfortunately, going back and splicing in stories from Latino veterans is easier said than done, and satisfying Rivas-Rodriguez's desire to have at least an additional two hours dedicated to Latino veterans is a rather tall order, considering the documentary focuses on four specific communities and Latino veterans from each of those communities would have to be found and their stories spliced in to fit the overall narrative.
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