Dog’s Movie House: “They Shall Not Grow Old,” “Stan & Ollie” Must Sees!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog With A Look At “They Shall Not Grow Old” and “Stan & Ollie!
January is often known as the place most studios dump the films in which they have no confidence to die. Fortunately it’s also the place where limited release films from the year before get a larger theater count so the general public can, you know, actually see them! In this case, there are two stellar films that deserve your attention. One of them is a World War I documentary by the legendary Peter Jackson and another tells the tale of one of the worlds most legendary comedy teams in Laurel & Hardy. Both are must see cinema!
Let’s start with “They Shall Not Grow Old.” Peter Jackson, with the blessing of London’s Imperial War Museum, combed through 100 hours of footage and 600 hours of interviews with over 200 soldiers to tell the tale of British Soldiers fighting in the trenches of Belgium during World War I. Jackson, being Jackson, tasked his studio to perform the most incredible remastering job ever performed on footage over 100 years old. Using digital techniques and bold color Jackson brings the Great War to life in a way previously thought unimaginable. The film quality is that good!
The next layer of authenticity comes with the sound. Jackson and his team edit the interviews I mentioned earlier into a narrative that takes us from enlistment to the soldiers coming home and every horror and moment of comraderie in between. Jackson used lip readers to discover what the soldiers were saying in the footage and then has voice actors sync up with the dialogue so we can actually hear what the soldiers are saying. Jackson also syncs up perfectly the audio sounds so that you actually feel like you are in the middle of the constant barrage of shells and machine gun fire.
The result is the most astoundingly immersive documentary I’ve ever seen. Be warned, though, it is unflinchingly gruesome in places, but if you have a strong subject and are interested in the history of the first great war, get your butt in a theater seat to see “They Shall Not Grow Old.” You won’t be disappointed! 5 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!
Next we have “Stan & Ollie” the story of the legendary comedy team’s 1953 theater tour of England. Directed by Jon S. Baird from a script by Jeff Pope, “Stan & Ollie” is a flat-out fantastic film! The duo had fallen somewhat out of the spotlight and Laurel (Steve Coogan) in particular is using the tour to drum up financing for an upcoming comeback film. Hardy (an fantastic John C. Reilly) is all for the tour as long as it gets them the film and finds himself somewhat hampered with health problems throughout. And all the while there is an undercurrent of tension between the two involving the events that happened that broke them up at the height of their fame in the late 1930’s.
The performances here are outstanding from the two leads. Not only do Coogan and Reilly do fantastic work during the performances, they also let you into what the duo was like offscreen. There’s was a lifelong friendship as well as a partnership despite the bitterness of certain events, and the chemistry between Coogan and Reilly really demonstrates that they were far more than just a comedy team.
The film also gets fine work from Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda as Oliver and Stan’s wives respectively. Arianda’s character, a Russian named Ida, is particularly fun as a blunt woman who speaks her mind whenever she chooses, often to comedic effect. Also good are Rufus Jones as the slightly slimy tour promoter and Danny Huston in a small roll as Hal Wallis.
The film has a wonderful rhythm and the period recreations are fantastic, but it’s Coogan and Reilly’s show all the way. How these two got bypassed by the Oscars I’ll never understand. Wonderful work in a wonderful film! 5 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!