“What happened to love thy neighbor?”, A Review of Copperhead (2013)

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History-based films always work the best when we can watch a particular story and relate to the characters, and then in our minds, just change a few things around, and all of a sudden, a movie set during a particular time period becomes very relevant to almost any era. This is what happens with Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead, a film so incredibly distanced from Gettysburg and Gods and Generals (both in content and style), in a sense that it takes the both-sides-are-right mentality and completely smashes it, instead, choosing to come right out and say that war is wrong, because no matter what side you are on, or what the result is, good people acting as mere pawns in a chess game for generals and politicians, will be killed and wounded regardless. The families and conflicts present in this movie could quite literally be anybody. Yes, they are dressed in 1860’s clothing and talk about far-gone politics, but switch a few items around, and the Beeches and Hagadorns (the two main families of this film) could be any, everyday people dealing with their children being sent off to fight in Vietnam, or perhaps more recent actions in the Middle East. It is a film that can reach out and touch us, bringing us into the history in a more intimate, down-to-earth way.

Copperhead does leave some to be desired, by way of certain actors needing more screen-time, and some characters who are not developed well-enough, but overall, this is a movie that people will be able to relate to and discuss, which is definitely very important for something so laden with politics. As has been said ad nauseum, this is nothing like Maxwell’s other Civil War movies, because the battleground is not of open fields and cannons, but of vitriolic politics, families divided, and homesteads being threatened by fire and rope. The civilian is an oft forgotten facet of all wars and their history, but thankfully this movie begins to show us that the men, women, and children far away from the battlefields were just as much warriors as the soldiers doing the fighting. All of this is helped along by the outstanding soundtrack by Laurent Eyquem, which contributes much to the feeling of the movie.

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Interview with “Copperhead” Actor Josh Cruddas

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The first actor I interviewed involved with Copperhead was Josh Cruddas, which happened right after filming began. We just went for the basics and he promised me another interview once filming ended, to give a better picture of his overall experience. Since I am lucky enough to have already seen the movie, I can say that Josh does a wonderful job in the role of Jimmy, who is kind of like the main character, Abner Beech’s, adopted son. Copperhead begins with Josh reciting the opening narration, setting the stage for the story to come—some of that narration can be heard in the voice-over on the trailer. As good of an actor as Josh is though, he is an even better person. We have remained in touch all this time, and I am proud to know such an aspiring young actor, who has such a bright future ahead of him. Though he has acted before, hopefully this will serve as his “big break”. At the end of our interview, Josh added, “All in all, playing Jimmy in Copperhead was a life-changing adventure for me, and I’ve made many new friends while creating a film that I believe will be something special. I need to thank Ron for giving me the chance to be in a picture like this, and I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received from everyone involved in the production and from folks back home and around the world. I feel very blessed.” Below is our full interview. Enjoy!

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“Copperhead” Official Trailer and New Movie Poster Released

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Just this past week, the official trailer and updated poster for Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead, which will hit theaters on June 28th, was released, much to the excitement of fans, who have waited nearly 10 years for another Civil War film from the director of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. The trailer, amongst fans, has generated a lot of discussion and rave reviews. Also garnering excitement is the new movie poster, which I must say is much better than the original, and really captures and essence and intensity of what this film is about—the American flag backdrop was totally necessary, to convey the point that even with all the strife and how this country was torn apart, we were all Americans in the end. It also includes the tagline, “Patriot to some. Traitor to others.”, which is central to the main character of Billy Campbell, as well as the entire Copperhead political movement as a whole, due to their anti-war feelings.

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Movie Review: Killing Lincoln (2013)

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Some people were expecting the worst from National Geographic’s Killing Lincoln, for two reasons: Bill O’Reilly’s book of the same title was littered with inaccuracies, and the production team of Ridley and Tony Scott, along with director Adrian Moat, recently produced one of the most inept and historically insulting documentaries ever made, Gettysburg, back in 2011. Hosted and narrated by Tom Hanks, this is a docudrama which surpasses Gettysburg, distances itself slightly from the book, yet at the same time, does not adequately deliver the entertainment one would expect here, which I will address later. Billy Campbell, whose other Civil War-era film, Copperhead, is slated to be released in June, does a decent job as President Abraham Lincoln. It would be absolutely unfair to compare him to Daniel Day-Lewis, so on his own he is fine. The performance is very calm, quiet, and subdued and I have no problem with the voice he used, which is not accurately high-pitched, but also is not the typical Hollywood deep voice we have heard over the years. The production team used Campbell and his talents as best as they could. However, considering that this film is about killing Lincoln, and Lincoln dies just after the midway point, it did leave a lot to be desired.

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First Trailer for “Killing Lincoln” Released; Film Shows Promise

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Ah, the wonders of Hollywood: Billy Campbell goes from playing a stubborn farmer diametrically opposed to Abraham Lincoln in the soon-to-be-released Copperhead, to portraying the president himself, in the upcoming television film, Killing Lincoln, airing on National Geographic next month, based on a book by Bill O’Reilly. This will serve as the network’s first ever scripted drama, while there will be some narration, provided by Tom Hanks. Though I have only seen the trailer, released yesterday, I must say that my hopes now are a little bit higher than they were when this project was first announced, mainly because the same producer (Ridley Scott) and director (Adrian Moat) gave us that brutally awful Gettysburg documentary for the History Channel last year. I shuddered to think at the same duo handling another portion of American history. However, after reading the script (which was current at the time I read it) several months ago, and because Nat-Geo is still reputable (at least more so than the other network), I will be willing to give this a shot, and them the benefit of the doubt.

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Thoughts After a Private Screening of “Copperhead”

Greg with "Copperhead" director Ron Maxwell.
Greg with “Copperhead” director Ron Maxwell.

I have just returned from the Broadway Screening Room, located in the Brill Building in New York City, after having been invited by director Ron Maxwell to a private showing of his film Copperhead, the last time it will be viewed before the picture is locked. I am very limited in what I can say about the film, but I will give you a few tidbits below. I am actually going to write my full review in the next few days and save it for the late May/early June 2013 release, since it is so fresh in my head. Before I get to some details, I just want to say it was great getting a chance to sit and chat with Ron for a few minutes before the film, and also to see actor Brian Mallon again, after we met in the summer of 2011 at the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut world premiere in Virginia. However, in contrast to that film, and Maxwell’s other Civil War work Gettysburg, Copperhead is one that is going to stand alone in terms of films made about the War Between the States. Simply put, it is unlike any other made about the subject ever.

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Billy Campbell Racking Up Civil War Roles; To Play Honest Abe in “Killing Lincoln”

Billy Campbell on the set of “Copperhead”.

For better or for worse, we are going to be tracking the progress of Ridley and Tony Scott’s National Geographic documentary that is currently in pre-production and slated to air next year. I have had people tell me it is a project worth covering, and people tell me that it is a waste of time because of how inaccurate the source book, Killing Lincoln, is, and due to the author being Bill O’Reilly. While I acknowledge both of those items, I have had a chance to see the working script and also have two connections to the cast and crew, and because I have immense respect for both of those people, I am going to devote some time to this in the hopes that the film will be better than the book.

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