Streampix Watch: War…What is It Good For? Movies! A Selection of Military Classics for Veteran’s Day

Tom Cruise in "Born on the Fourth of July" (Universal)

Still, Veteran’s Day on Monday, will have to do for now, and what better way to honor our soldiers past and present than immersing ourselves in some Streampix feature films and documentaries, offering us the thrill of combat from the safety of our living room couches.

From the Military Channel archives comes a series of acclaimed documentaries, including “Return Salute,” with returning soldiers granted a special wish; “Horse Sense and Soldiers,” featuring a unique outreach program involving veterans with trouble adjusting to civilian life spending time on a horse ranch; “Feats of Valor,” a look at the heroic feats of three Medal of Honors winners, veterans of the Vietnam, Korean and World War II;  “Vietnam POWs: Stories of Survival,” featuring Sen. John McCain and “Day After D-Day,” as vets describe the aftermath of the famed Invasion of Normandy, a turning point in WWII, on June 6, 1944.

As for feature films, Streampix is your foxhole destination for the best in war flicks, and here’s a Veteran’s Day Top 10 to get you started:

Gettysburg”: Director Ronald F. Maxwell’s epic 1993 account of the pivotal, three-day Civil War battle in July 1863, adapted from the novel by Michael Shaara, boasts an all-star cast, including Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen, Jeff Daniels, Sam Elliot, C. Thomas Howell and Stephen Lang. This was a pet project of media mogul Ted Turner, who has a small role as a Confederate officer during Pickett’s Charge, and began life as a potential TV mini-series for ABC, which ultimately turned it down, then Turner’s own TNT, before he decided to release it theatrically. The National Park Service allowed unprecedented access to the actual Gettsyburg Battlefield, though most of the movie was shot at a nearby Adams County farm.

Under Siege”: Steven Seagal is a former Navy SEAL serving as a cook on a battleship who ends up defending it against terrorists, with a cast that also includes Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey in this 1992 Andrew Davis-directed action thriller. There’s no better way of honoring our soldiers than watching a Seagal flick, especially if it also includes Gary Busey.

Gods and Generals”: Another Ted Turner-produced, Ronald F. Maxwell-directed project, this sweeping 2003 epic tells the story of Confederate generals “Stonewall” Jackson (Stephen Lang) and Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall, one of Lee’s actual descendants) with Jeff Daniels as Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain  Turner sunk $60 million of his own cash into the project, enlisting more than 7,500 Civil War re-enactors to appear in the battle scenes. Turner has another cameo in the film, as Colonel Waller T. Patton, relative of General George Patton, who was mortally wounded in a scene originally depicted in “Gettysburg.” The film is notable for including a Bob Dylan song, “Cross the Green Mountain,” commissioned and composed especially for the movie, as part of its soundtrack.

Born on the Fourth of July”: Oliver Stone’s celebrated 1989 anti-war movie is based on the biography of real-life vet Ron Kovic, played by Tom Cruise, who returned from Vietnam paralyzed and disillusioned, turning into both a symbol of and spokesman for, the country’s peace movement. Stone won a Best Director Oscar for the film, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, along with a nod for Cruise as Best Actor, his first.

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Heroes”: This 1977 feature is another Vietnam vet tale, this one starring Henry Winkler as a troubled soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who embarks on a coast-to-coast road trip with Sally Field, fresh from leaving her fiancée four days before the wedding, to discover what happened to the rest of his unit. He tells her of his plans to start a worm farm for fishing bait together with four of his ex-comrades and they fall in love. Directed by Jeremy Paul Kagan, it also stars Harrison Ford.

The War”: This 1994 Jon Avnet-directed film tells the story of a shell-shocked Vietnam vet played by Kevin Costner who returns from a stint in a mental hospital, to his rural family in 1970 Mississippi, determined to build the ultimate treehouse. Also stars a very young Elijah Wood in one of his first film roles. Mare Winningham, Lexi Randall and “The Good Wife”’s Christine Baranski. The film is probably most notable today for the breakthrough performance by Wood.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”: An Italian officer during World War II, played by Nicolas Cage, part of an occupying force on the beautiful Greek Ionian Island of Cephallonia, falls in love with Penelope Cruz, a local villager, in this 2001 period film directed by John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) and based on the novel by Louis de Bernières. When the Germans return to disarm the Italians, and kill those who resist, their relationship is shattered. The movie also stars Christian Bale, John Hurt and veteran Greek actress Irene Papas.

McHale’s Navy”: If you need a little comic relief after all that warfare, this 1997 film version of the TV series which starred Ernest Borgnine (who has a cameo) and features none other than Tom Arnold as Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale, is the place to go. Fresh off his battles with Roseanne, Arnold leads his wacky crew against the world’s “second-best terrorist,” Tim Curry’s Major Vladikov, who is intent on building a nuclear silo on an abandoned island. Directed by Bryan Spicer, the movie also stars David Alan Grier, Dean Stockwell and Debra Messing.

Vietnam: Picking Up the Pieces”: This 1978 documentary from producer-writer Jon Alpert takes its cameras inside Vietnam after the war, finding the North undeveloped and the South rife with unemployment, drug addiction and prostitution. It also includes harrowing scenes in Hanoi and Saigon as well as “rehabilitation centers” for former South Vietnamese soldiers.

Afghanistan: From Ground Zero to Ground Zero”: A 2002 documentary, also from producer-writer Jon Alpert, which follows the story of 23-year-old Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-American woman who returns to Kandahar in the wake of 9/11.  Masuda is delighted to see the reign of the Taliban lifted, but horrified to find out what happened to her family, who escaped American bombing to the small village of Chowkar-karez, 60 miles north of Kandahar, where 19 of them died in another U.S. attack. Masuda, who supports America’s effort against terrorism, tries to unravel why her family had to die in the desert.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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