Archive for the ‘War’ Category

The Darkest Hour – ***

Posted: June 29, 2020 in 2017, biopic, Political, UK, War, WW2, XXX

Gary Oldman is phenomenal as Winston Churchill!

There you go. That’s the main reason to watch this movie. But it’s also cleverly told and takes you back to the start of a troublesome period in the world of which the end wasn’t in sight at all.

A bit like now really.

During a visit of the excellent Churchill War Rooms in London, you remind yourself to watch this Oscar-winning biopic. But then days, weeks and months go by and you forget about it. Then you watch The Crown and he pops up again and you remind yourself again to watch this movies. But again days, weeks and months go by and you forget about it. But then it passes on tv and you have nothing better to do than to just start watching. Before you know it the movie is over and you regret not having watched it while you still had all the knowledge of the museum visit.

It’s a very accessible movie though for a large crowd. It’s not particularly detailed or overly political. It’s clear and well-brought. It resonates with the audience and it’s more than just the depiction of a weirdly fascinating leader that had more opponents than fans, but still managed to lead the UK through the Second World War.

The direction of the movie is also very good. Some scenes work really well. Even when they are fictitious. Like the scene on the metro.

Watch Season 1 of the Crown first. Then Darkest Hour. Then Dunkirk. In that order. Then visit London to visit the war rooms, take the Eurostar to Lille, the regional train to Dunkirk for a visit of the Operation Dynamo museum. And then go for a city trip to Bruges to just relax. 😉

www.imdb.com/title/tt4555426

The Water Diviner – **(*)

Posted: June 27, 2020 in 2014, Australia, Drama, Turkey, War, WW1, XX

A bit of a flop, this directorial debut of Russell Crowe, but worth the watch.

Crowe also plays the main lead: a father who travels from Australia to Gallipoli to find the bodies of his three sons who got missing in action during the disastrous World War 1 battle.

Crowe is a joy to watch. He may not be the most expressive actor out there, but he embodies the character really well. The man loses his children and his wife, has nothing much left to live for, so decides to go on an unprecedented journey into post WW1 Turkey.

It looks like an old skool romantic war drama from the sixties, which is a good thing. The cinematography is great. A bit over-romantic maybe. Istanbul looks gorgeous in the yellow filter. It’s definitely not a dark, grey and grim movie. There is some action, but it’s not a war action movie. The story takes place after the First World War. There is an awkward romantic touch to it that isn’t necessary, but kinda cute.

Also positive is that the Turks speak Turk amongst themselves. That most speak fluent English to converse with Crowe’s character is a bit unlikely, but we’re only talking about five people here, so maybe, just maybe, these Turks were fluent in English back in 1919. It’s great to see a Turkish view on this Gallipoli battle. They lost a lot of lives as well. It’s not only ANZACS that got killed. The fact that a Turkish army leader helps locate the bodies of deceased soldiers sounds plausible. That he becomes some kind of ally/friend with this Australian farmer is less plausible. But it works. Just like Russell Crowe, Yilmaz Erdogan is a joy to watch.

Maybe, on another night, the inaccuracies would have bothered. The main actress isn’t even Turkish! The Greeks are represented as a bunch of mountain war mongers.  But it was a good movie tonight.

www.imdb.com/title/tt3007512

 

Da 5 Bloods – *

Posted: June 15, 2020 in 2020, Adventure, USA, War, X

Spike Lee isn’t going to want to hear this, but Quentin Tarantino would have made a much stronger movie based on this material.

Four African American Vietnam vets return to the Asian country in search of a case of gold they once found on a mission and which they buried next to the remains of their squad leader, who got shot during the mission.

Sounds interesting. A bit of adventure, mixed with drama and four unusual leads.

But then the movie starts and it’s already a mess from the beginning. None of these main characters is interesting. They once formed a squad, then led separate lives and now get back together to go on a treasure hunt. NO! This has to be a group of buddies who stuck with each other through life and now finally, as the icing of the friendship cake, go on this adventure. One of them, the PTSD case of the group, voted Trump and wears a MAGA cap. He’s the most annoying character of the movie and that’s probably Spike Lee’s aim. He’s also the main character. Yawn. The other three are present, but that’s all they are. They don’t provide comic relief. Nor drama. They are almost obsolete.

Then one of the guy’s son appears to join them. A character so uninteresting that he’s only used for one dramatic scene by the end. Along the way they meet all kinds of people, who are superficially introduced as stereotypes. The unemotional former prostitute and her daughter, the stuck up French businessman accepting to cash the gold when it is found, the anti-American members of a European mine detonating organization, the Vietnamese guide who they can or cannot trust, …. None of them are interesting. Somewhere near the end a snake attacks one of the squad members and gets blown to pieces. Somehow that is the dramatic highlight of the movie.

And a lot of things happen. Which is the only reason why this still gets some rating.

The problem is that it all looks like it was made on a low budget and there was no money for second takes or special effects. It’s also filled with obsolete scenes. Like the one where the foursome gets a visit from a kid that is missing a leg and begs for money. Why is that scene in the movie? To show the dismissive reaction of the MAGA dude? We already know the guy is the douchebag, reinforcing it by this scene is unnecessary. Then as the four walk out of the restaurant the kid throws firecrackers at them. It sounds like they are being attacked. Why is that scene in the movie? It’s not funny. It’s not dramatic. It’s obsolete. And so you have almost half of the movie consisting of unnecessary scenes that aren’t funny or dramatic or make sense.

Clear to say this is a very disappointing movie. Especially since it looked like it could have been such a great movie. It could have been a Stand By Me for grown ups in the Vietnamese jungle. It also could have been a Romancing The Stone kind of comical action adventure. It could even have been a Deer Hunter like drama. It could have even been a mix of all that. And still work.

But it doesn’t. It’s a boring movie without drama, without humor and lots of shoot up action scenes that could well have been featured in Rambo, a movie that gets dissed by some of the characters.

Missed chance.

www.imdb.com/title/tt9777644/

White House Down – *(*)

Posted: April 3, 2020 in 2013, Action, Terrorist, USA, X1/2

On tv and great pulp entertainment during corona times.

The acting is terrible. The plot is even worse. The special effects aren’t that spectacular.

But before you know it, the movie is over and you’re ready to head to bed not thinking about the world right now.

A security agent wants to work in the white house and be a bodyguard for the president. On the day of his application he brings along his daughter, but a terrorist attack takes places and they are trapped. This is thé day to prove that he can be a hero to his kid and  a hero to the president.

Yeah. It’s that silly.

www.imdb.com/title/tt2334879

The devastating First World War. Four years of chaos and death in Flanders Fields. And at the end there was the Spanish flu.

It’s quite surreal to watch this Flemish series during corona times. But it’s being removed from Netflix by the end of the month and the idea was to finish it before the many professional trips to Ypres next month.

The show is well filmed and there is much eye to detail. The research was done well and the period setting is great. But the over-abundance of storylines is getting annoying halfway into the show. World War I is a fascinating period in history and there are so many facets of the war that were never addressed in major Hollywood movies. But to pack them all into a ten episode series is just not good.

Even though it’s an international production, it is still a Flemish series and the focus is on the story of a Flemish family. This may not appeal to international audiences as they will not understand the many references. We see the family Boesman from Ghent at the outbreak of the war. Doctor Boesman is a gynecologist who wants to become a professor at the university and assumes the war will soon be over. His wife, who is part of the catholic bourgeoisie, is at his side. Their oldest son is ready to go to battle. Their younger son is more opportunist and prefers to stay home and continue his work as as sales person. The daughter is too young to do anything, but she aspires to be a doctor one day, like her dad.

The characters are intriguing and good guides through the thick storybook of little tales about the war. But at one point it’s enough. Everything is mentioned. Briefly and superficially.  The Flemish social pillar system (socialist/catholic/liberal); the subordinate role of women, the Flemish collaboration and resistance, the pop-up brothels for the English officers, the gas attacks, the smuggling, the espionage, the food shortage, the Christmas truces, the war tactics, … and they still add romance to it all as well.

To give you a spoiler example focussing on the daughter. She wants to become a doctor but can’t as a woman, betrays her best friend whose father is German, tries to run errands for the resistance, is attracted to the young German officer who occupies her house, smuggles something across the border to her Grandmother, has an abortion, flees to England, becomes a nurse, meets her brothers in battle, etc… She clearly is the main character of the show, but actress Lize Feryn can’t carry the show. Luckily she is assisted by two actors playing her parents. Wim Opbrouck is great as the collaborating gynecologist and Barbara Sarafian is at her best trying to support her husband’s bad decisions.

Unfortunately it’s not a must-see and even a drag by the end.

www.imdb.com/title/tt2253780

Camille – **

Posted: February 22, 2020 in 2019, Drama, France, War, XX

Camille is a young journalist who made it her ambition to be a war photographer. She is not that successful until she arrives in the Central African Republic, where a civil war is about the erupt between Muslims and Christians.

With little experience and strange looks from more established journalists she gets attached to some local students who allow her into their world.

When the violence erupts she has her first pictures published, which helps the French intervene in the country’s mess. The muslim Séléka, who – according to this movie – are raiding villages, murdering and raping christians, are stopped by the international presence. But this leads to christian Anti-Balaka gangs who take revenge at the muslim population. It’s confusing if you don’t know much about the civil war and this movie doesn’t do anything to help you understand it better. 

No. The focus is on this young woman. A girl really. But rather than giving some kind of insight on why she chose this path, we just get to observe her as she kinda takes sides with he Anti-Balaka. Just because she got connected to one of their new leaders, who she met as a student on her initial journey. 

The movie reminds you of Ghosts of Cité Soleil, where we also get to see how young European women feel the need to be part of some ‘exotic’ nation’s internal problems. We never get to learn why Camille prefers life in danger than staying at home with her family and friends. The town of Angers must be really boring for someone to want to risk getting killed almost every moment of the day. The movie ends with her saying she feels happier in the war zone. Maybe that’s true. We don’t know. She got killed. So we can only guess. 

It’s an interesting movie. It’s based on true fact, but fictionalized a bit as a lot needs to be assumed. The acting by the main actress is good. Not so much by the many extras. And as mentioned before, we don’t get to learn that much about Central African Republic at all. 

Tu viens, tu prends et tu parts. You come, you take and you leave.

This one line in the movie is quite powerful, because it is the truth. It’s said to Camille as a comparison to the French colonizers from not that long ago. It’s amazing how the woman can get the trust of these young people who are her age and live in a total different world. They may be as ambitious and as intelligent and also dream of leaving the place to look for happiness and recognition abroad. But they definitely don’t have the same opportunities. 

Somehow this movie could have been much more. 

www.imdb.com/title/tt9678892

 

 

1917 – ***

Posted: January 12, 2020 in 2019, UK, USA, War, WW1, XXX

The first hour of this Word War I epic is perfect cinema. Once the story reaches the town of Écoust-Saint-Mein however, it becomes a rather unrealistic survival adventure. It’s still good, but it kind of ruins the great storytelling of the first part. And the end.. well, it’s an end.

This movie gives the impression that it is made in a single shot. And it works. Amazingly. This means the storytelling is great ánd the direction was planned impeccably.

Two soldiers need to get a message across to stop a planned attack. That’s it. But what happens next is CINEMA at its best.

Just go see it. It deserves to win all the awards its nominated for.

www.imdb.com/title/tt8579674/

Wunderkinder – *(*)

Posted: December 27, 2019 in 2011, Drama, Germany, WW2, XX

1941. Hanna Reich is growing up in the Ukraine as the daughter of a German beer brewer. She has no friends and loves to play the violin, so with a little help of her wealthy father she gets private lessons from a teacher who also brings the so called wonder kids to her house. These kids are on the verge of a tour around Russia and maybe even America until the war interrupts their dreams.

While Hitler is waging war in the West, Stalin is controlling power in the east. Hannah and her new found friends are growing up in a relatively safe area, until the Nazis decide to expand their territory towards Russia. First, Hannah’s family is a target for the NKVP (the Sovjet gestapo), but once the Nazis take over it’s the family of the wonder kids that become a target. They are, you’ve guessed it, Jewish.

Though the story is fascinating and probably a good read as a young adult historical novel, the movie isn’t all that good. The storytelling is rushed. Moreover, it’s told as a long flashback, allowing the first scene to spoil the end of the story. Why did they decide to do that?

The acting and more precise, the character depiction, leaves much to be desired for as well.You can’t blame directors for depicting Nazis as one dimensional assholes. But you can blame them for depicting any other character as soulless. Especially the kids who are the main characters.

Best scene: the semi nazi sympathizing mother who pulls off her swastika at the end and bleeds. 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1710625/

Werk Ohne Autor – ***

Posted: November 19, 2019 in 2018, Drama, Germany, Romance, War, XXX

European critics didn’t like it. The artist whose life it’s based on didn’t like it either. But lots of moviegoers did and somehow the members of the Academy as well, because this German biopic was one of last year’s nominees for best foreign language film.

It’s a great movie though. Just assume it’s fiction and forget about the artist’s complaints. And expect a simple, superficial overview of what Germany has gone through the past couple of decades. Nazism, communism, capitalism… it’s all briefly mentioned, which bothers a lot of critics, but is well done for an audience who may not be too familiar with the details of Germany’s history.

It does rise some questions about art & artists and governments & ideologies who have their own interpretation of art. It’s very topical right now in a region like Flanders, where subsidies for art projects will  be lowered by 60%. A politician claimed that modern art has lost its beauty and the new artists are too focused on individual expressions, a statement which caused even more controversy than the financial cut.

The movie starts with a young kid visiting an exhibition of entartete Kunst. It’s quite ironic to think that the Nazis showed degenerate art to the masses to mock and condemn it. It must have been a great exhibition to visit if you were interested in different art. Later in the movie the kid has become an adult and paints socialist realism in the DDR under the rule of communists who hate the egocentric aspect of Western art as well. A few years later the artist arrives in Dusseldorf having fled across the border and is confronted with modern expressions of art, which ignore the craft of painting and focus on installations and performances.

It’s an easy movie to love (and for critics to hate). It’s filmed in a very conventional way, but there’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned drama. Art doesn’t always have to shock. It can also be just beautiful. And this movie is. The love story is refreshingly simple. The only obstacle in the young couple’s romance is the father of the girl, a conservative opportunist and vile doctor with a dark past.

Watch it.

Unless you don’t like mainstream movies appealing to the masses aged 9 to 99.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5311542

A guided tour of the Leopoldmuseum in Vienna by an art historian who raved about Egon Schiele. That’s all it takes to start watching the biopic that was made of the famous Austrian painter a few years ago.

It’s an interesting movie. It’s well acted, somehow historically correct and it shows the complexity of the artist without really judging him. That said, it’s also quite superficial. And romantic. Egon Schiele was not a handsome guy, yet he’s interpreted by Noah Saavedra – who apart from being an actor also works as a model. This feels wrong. Like having Brad Pitt or so play Van Gogh. However, the guy does an excellent job by keeping you intrigued for the entire length of the movie. Same for Valerie Pachner, who plays his muse and (eternal) lover Wally.

It’s a love story really, but a good one. Without a happy end of course. They all die. And that’s not a spoiler. The title is referring to one of his most famous paintings. A painting which is quite disturbing, something this movie (unfortunately) never does. So Egon Schiele himself would probably not like it at all. But oh well, he died 100 years ago…

www.imdb.com/title/tt4558396