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Thursday, March 11, 2010

If you have HBO, watch Tom Hanks' new WWII miniseries "The Pacific" (and invite me over, please)

If HBO's new World War II miniseries "The Pacific" is half as entertaining, powerful or enthralling as 2001's "Band of Brothers" was and is, it'll be an instant hit.

"Band of Brothers," a 10-episode miniseries co-produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, is the premium cable channel's biggest DVD success to date. Based on the Stephen Ambrose book of the same name, it followed one company of soldiers (Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division) through the European theater of World War II. Thanks to countless reruns on the History Channel -- reruns I almost always watch despite having seen the series through several times -- the miniseries has become the definitive visual centerpiece of World War II history. (Besides, it proved that New Kids on the Block alum Donnie Wahlberg actually had some acting chops).

"The Pacific" is a companion piece to "Band of Brothers" that focuses on the other major battlefront in World War II. Starting this Sunday on HBO, the 10-episode miniseries will track the stories of three Marines from the time they land on Guadalcanal to when they return to the States after V-J Day. Although the series does have the benefit of its predecessor's popularity, it also has the advantage of a $250 million budget and the advance of special effects in the last decade. But anyone who watched "Band of Brothers" can tell you -- it isn't the action that made it gripping television, it's the characters and the moments between firefights that solidified its status as the leader of the the World War II-movie/miniseries pantheon.

Reviews so far from critics give the miniseries high praise. Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel calls it a "stupendous miniseries that re-creates World War II with gut-wrenching power" and the San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman says it "it offers a resounding yes to a nagging question: Do we really need another movie about World War II?" One of our favorite critics here at Channel Surfing, Alan Sepinwall, says although it isn't quite "the ripping adventure yarn "Band of Brothers" became at times," it's "more visceral and relentless, but as rewarding in its own way."

Even if war movies aren't your thing, any fan of serious drama who can afford HBO shouldn't pass up the opportunity to catch this epic miniseries (and, if you do have HBO, please invite me over). Here's the trailer for "The Pacific":


"The Pacific" premieres on HBO this Sunday at 8 p.m.

--Malavika Jagannathan, mjaganna@greenbaypressgazette.com

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