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on November 4, 2006
Both of these movies are based on the books by father and son historians Michael & Jeff Shaara. Gettysburg is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book "The Killer Angels". No school library should be without these two wonderful films and the related books. These movies were filmed using reinactors and are very realistic and very close to actual events. These films were made by Ted Turner and part of a trilogy. The third movie about the defeat of the Confederacy may or may not be completed (PLEASE Ted do the film!!). A fourth movie "Andersonville" is about the infamous southern prison camp (not for the squeamish!!).

I cannot recommend these movies highly enough. They are GREAT films for every American to view at least once so that they understand how terrible the Civil War really was. Very entertaining and not to be missed.
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Ironies abound: while Gettysburg was made for television but ended up with a theatrical release, yet despite a $60m budget, a huge cast and being shot in 2.35:1 widescreen, Gods and Generals looks like it would have been more at home on TV. In some ways it's almost the most expensive home movie ever shot, with Ted Turner paying for this account of the early years of the American Civil War out of his own pocket. For the first hour it's almost as if the Union never existed, the film shown entirely from the Southern side, and with a very partisan view at that (all down to Yankee aggression, with Fort Sumpter conveniently dismissed in a single line). Too often lengthy quotations take the place of dialogue and even the better actors in the cast often seem ill at ease while the surprisingly weak daylight photography and poor CGi matte painting in early scenes giving it an air of storybook unreality. Indeed, Ronald Maxwell's approach at times seems pure D.W. Griffith, with a fondness for awkward tableaux and unconvincing sentiment (poor Mira Sorvino gets a couple of particularly painfully hearts-and-flowers scenes to deliver as a consolation prize for missing out on playing Joan of Arc when Maxwell's version was dropped in the wake of Luc Besson's film). There are a few moments here and there - an intimate scene between Stonewall Jackson and his wife confiding his doubts, a scene between Jeff Daniels and Kevin Conway's sergeant about friends on the other side - but as the over-ambitious film tries to cram too much history into its four hour running time (and still scenes filmed dealing with Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth and the Battle of Antietem didn't make the cut) the people just get lost.

Thankfully, the second half rallies considerably as the film reaches the Battle of Fredericksburg and the 20th Maine's disastrous charge, and the contradictions in Stephen Lang's "Stonewall" Jackson, a deeply religious man yet one who advocated taking no prisoners, become more interesting despite the film's determination to turn him into across between Jesus Christ and a vengeful Old Testament prophet. Yet sadly the lasting impression is of a film that is too sprawling and unfocussed for its own good and one that not only either needed to be a lot longer or a lot shorter but also much better written. As for the somewhat nonsensical title, it's an abbreviation of the novel's Faith in Gods and Generals. Incidentally, be warned that the DVD has one of the worst side breaks ever. Some fairly decent DVD extras, but the lack of deleted scenes implies a director's cut may be in the offing some time in the future.

Gettysburg is actually the second part in an intended trilogy that will now probably never be completed in the wake of the dismal box-office for the bloated Gods and Generals. Thankfully it gains more by having a smaller canvas, focussing on one single battle and largely on three actions - Buford's inspired initial defense on the first day, Little Round Top and Pickett's Charge - and by seeing the action from the viewpoint of both sides throughout. The characters are better drawn, the dialogue feels more natural and you get much more of a sense of what a human tragedy the war was. As a British observer on the Confederate side points out, it all boils down to "same people, different dreams."

The problem with most epics devoted to single battles or campaigns (Waterloo, Zulu Dawn, The Battle of Neretva etc) is that without a single dominating personality they often get so bogged down with history or strategy that the human element gets lost, with a succession of stars acting almost like anonymous interchangeable sports commentators only there to explain what's going on for the layman. Gettysburg has its share of characters primarily there for exposition, but by narrowing its focus to a few of them and drawing on their own letters and memoirs it's able to give them a little more depth and personality. Martin Sheen's Lee's increasingly wrong-headed strategy as he consigns more and more men to pointless deaths with a homespun rationale that leads to horrifying casualties contrasts well with Tom Berenger's more cautious Longstreet gradually realising that the tide has turned against them while Jeff Daniels' awkward but sincere Lawrence Chamberlain gives a humane and decent voice to the Union's case. Richard Jordan is genuinely affecting in his last role - his final scene is even more moving with the knowledge that he really was dying at the time - and even George Lazenby even turns up briefly. As a result, there's more involvement in what's happening and more understanding of what's at stake on a personal level to both sides during the battle. Although shot as a TV miniseries before being released theatrically, it actually looks like a feature film, and one that manages to hold the interest over its four hour running time. It's such an impressive piece of work that you can't help but wonder why so many of the same people got it so wrong so often on Gods and Generals.

Excellent extras on the double-sided DVD, but sadly none of the deleted scenes from the 270-minute laserdisc director's cut.
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on June 6, 2013
'Gettysburg' presents' the background to the pivotal Civil War battle that stopped the northern incursion of the Confederate Army led by General Robert E. Lee (Martin Sheen). Tom Berenger shines as a Confederate Army Lt. General James 'Pete' Longstreet but Sheen comes across too sheepish as General Lee. C. Thomas Howell and Jeff Daniels are believable as the Chamberlain brothers who are in the Union Army. Sam Elliott, Kevin Conway and Richard Jordan are fine in supporting roles. The battle lasts over three days in life and over two hours in the film.

The second film, 'Gods and Generals' gives us a quasi-intimate view into the lives of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Lt. General Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson. It is extremely well-acted and perfectly executed. Stephen Lang shines as Jackson and Robert Duvall is magnificent as General Robert E. Lee. Stephen Lang returns as General Pickett. The strategy, drama and action of the battles pull the viewer in without any problems. The ideological reasons for the secession war are presented with much emotion and passion. What does become apparent is the blindness of both sides as to the truths which are evident through history. This is a fantastic historical war film.
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on January 30, 2010
We purchased this double DVD set for our 11 year old son who is a Civil War buff, and it has really opened his eyes to the complexities of this war on a human level. While the films are generally historically accurate, their real power lies in how they dramatize the details of the personalities. The acting is excellent and it really illuminates the complexities of the people and the times- the scale of suffering and the contradictions of civil war- brothers fighting brothers, friends fighting friends. Oftentimes so-called enemies shared the same beliefs and opinions as each other on issues central to the very reason of the war (seen here on several occasions regarding the questions of slavery and democracy). Jeff Daniels is excellent as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the decorated Civil War hero and favorite son of Maine who led the defense of Little Round Top, arguable the pivotal battle of Gettysburg. The late actor Richard Jordan gave a truly inspired performance as General Lewis Armistead. But these are just two of a number of brilliant performances- the entire cast brought their personas to life and wove them into both films perfectly.

Whether a Civil War buff or not, the battle scenes are epic and totally gripping. Both are films that we have enjoyed immensely and would recommend without hesitation.
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on January 4, 2016
Slow going in some parts, but a great way to introduce a curiosity about history with new Americans, students and the younger generation. The films have inspired me to read more about the Civil War, in depth, beyond the dry facts I was lectured on at school. My favorite performances were by Jeff Daniels and Robert Duval. One of the most endearing story-lines was that of Stonewall Jackson. A must-have in your video library.

"Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees."
--Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson
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on February 4, 2016
I read the books first. The movie did an excellent portrail of the characters in the book. Gettysburg was well done beginning with the Union Cavalry general realizing the value of high ground in Gettysburg. The sadness of Picketts charge knowing they would die was well done. This movie is part of my permanent library. I lost my first copy in a movie and was happy to find Gettysburg with Gods and Generals in one jacket.
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on June 7, 2015
This DVD is a wonderful history of both before and during the Gettysburg conflict. I learned so much I had not known before. The acting is superb, scenery wonderful and the Gettysburg film was on site in actual places where things had occurred. Well worth the money and I will watch these over again. How wonderful to have the re-enactors who provided all of the necessary corps in actual costumes and equipment to fill out the battles.
They were magnificent and these films looked so real, and the cannons so loud you were completely drawn into the battles. Wonderful films, I highly recommend them to anyone who loves history.
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on September 9, 2014
Me and the wife recently took our first trip to historic Gettysburg PA. We were so impressed with the history surrounding and engulfing the whole town we just had to take it to the next step and view the battles itself. The movie Gettysburg is fascinating as it is actually filmed on location, and we recognized many spots we visited on the battlefield tours. Also, they used Civil War rein-actors which is brilliant as they already have their own uniforms. Genius! And would probably do the battles for free. Now Martin Sheen as Lee was a bit of a stretch but that's nitpicking really. God and Generals is actually a better movie. Robert Duvall is a better General Lee. But buying these two in one box (2 discs) is very convenient.
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on September 15, 2010
If you ever plan to visit Gettysburg, we strongly suggest that you view "Gettysburg" prior to your visit. It will provide you with the most thorough understanding and background of the events that took place before, during and after that battle. Even if you are not planning a visit, it's a GREAT history lesson.
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on November 30, 2013
I had to watch these two movies for a Civil War class in college this year. Let me tell you that both kept me captivated. I was raised in the South and was taught that the Union was evil. However, these movies helped dissuade that thinking right away. In the movie "Gettysburg," I was surprised to find that one of the true heroes in the battle was a Union officer, Colonel Chamberlain, and that was out of necessity. The one thing I would have loved to see was the movies done in chronological order. ("Gods and Generals" was made 10 years after "Gettysburg" even though the Gettysburg battle happened after the events depicted in "Gods and Generals.") Regardless, both movies were excellent, and I gained new appreciation and respect for the actor Jeff Daniels, even though I saw these long after the stupid movie, "Dumb and Dumber."
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