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Rainout Theater... Movie Review: "The Alamo"

The Cubs were rained out at Pittsburgh today. This echoes last year, when they had a rainout at PNC Park in their first visit there, though in 2003 it was in May, a game made up in a September DH the Cubs wound up splitting.

Tonight's postponement will be made up on Friday, May 28, as a doubleheader in the Cubs' next visit to Pittsburgh. It will also shift around the Cub rotation a bit; Kerry Wood, who was slated to pitch tonight, gets two extra days off and will go on Saturday, with Greg Maddux staying on rotation and going tomorrow afternoon against the Mets.

This is a good thing; Wood was stretched out to 131 pitches in his last start and this gives him extra recovery time, and with the early rainout, the Cubs get back in town at a reasonable hour tonight, awaiting tomorrow's day game.

And so, this gives me a chance to tell you a little bit about "The Alamo", which I saw this afternoon.

As a piece of historical fiction, this one's pretty accurate. The siege of the Alamo, part of the battle for a then-independent Texas, has been filmed before, but this time they got the history right -- though a mugging Billy Bob Thornton, playing Davy ("he prefers David", according to another character) Crockett, was a little over the top.

The basic story is that of the history: how a ragged band of "Texians" (as they called themselves at the time) held out at what was originally a Spanish mission, later made into a makeshift fort, for 12 days while the army of General Santa Anna besieged them, eventually killing nearly everyone there. They were rebelling against Santa Anna's dictatorial rule, after he had reneged on promises to give special privileges to people residing in Texas, which had enticed many Americans to move there, hoping to make their fortunes.

Dennis Quaid plays Sam Houston, who was not only the first President of the Republic of Texas (and who the city of Houston was named after), but also the general of their ragtag army. Quaid plays him with a perpetual scowl on his face, though he's about the only one who really has any idea of how to defeat Santa Anna's army, which he finally does with an inspired bit of military thought, based on how Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. (The film's captions point out, correctly, that once Houston figured this out, Santa Anna's army was defeated in eighteen minutes.)

There's quite a bit of blood and shooting in this film, so if that kind of thing isn't your cup of tea, don't bother seeing it. Otherwise I liked the way it was photographed, in color but it almost felt sepia-toned. The Texians were portrayed oddly -- I got the feeling they were all just pretty much a bunch of drunks who you couldn't even root for against a superior army, except the Mexican army was portrayed in even worse terms, as men who acted superior in the officer ranks, while the ordinary soldier appeared as if he'd rather be just about anywhere else than slogging through the deserts and swamps of Texas.

Jim Bowie, who carried around a really large knife most of the time, almost to hit us over the head with the fact that the Bowie knife was named after him, was played by Jason Patric as not only a drunk, but someone who had tuberculosis, and spent about half the film lying in bed, dying. There's a sub-story here that isn't clear, as a woman who's never really identified, says she's staying with him because Bowie's ... well, that's not clear either. Wife? Lover? was her sister. And so they all die, including Bowie, who is murdered in cold blood, while a locket with this woman's picture is just out of his grasp. It's meant to convey great emotion, but this scene just confused me.

The history is true, the battle scenes well-done, but this isn't a great film, just a good one.

AYRating: ***