Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Week In Film #220: Ich bin ein Berliner

Das Leben Der Anderen title screen

Das Leben Der Anderen AKA The Lives Of Others
Straight arrow Stasi investigator questions his work when ordered to investigate a target so that his boss can has a clear run up at the target’s girlfriend. Moving, powerful, emotionally manipulative, and at times funny.

Seven Psychopaths title screen

Seven Psychopaths
Amusing meta darkness from Martin McDonagh, in a similar vein as Macy’s The Deal, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or Get Shorty, with blocked scriptwriter Coin Farrell getting into all sorts of weird trouble along with his impetuous chum Sam Rockwell.

Hot Fuzz title screen

Hot Fuzz
Wright & Pegg do the buddy cop movie, West Country-style.

A Week In Film #219: Welcome to 2013 (steam rising)

THitler's SS: Portrait Of Evil title screen

Hitler’s SS: Portrait Of Evil
Well, those SS were a rum bunch, weren’t they? Bill Nighy and John Shea play a pair of brothers from Stuttgart whose varying fortunes through the 1930s and 40s give us our hook into what can only be described as a ‘Nazi Greatest Hits’ TV movie: Economic collapse! Degenerate Weimar nightclub comics! Them SA dudes were totally gay! Night of the Long Knives! Kristallnacht! (“If I had any Jewish friends I would advise them to keep their heads down for a few days…”) Invading Poland! Invading Russia! Heydrich assassinated! Trains to the death camps! Berlin in ruins! All a bit pants, really.

Aus Liebe Zum Volk title screen

Auf Liebe Zum Volk AKA I Love You All!
Well put together documentary – archive images, ethereal voices, lingering eye – on the work of the Stasi in East Germany, through the stories of those who worked for it.

Marele Jaf Comunist title screen

Marele Jaf Comunist AKA Great Communist Bank Robbery
Fascinating documentary about a propaganda documentary made by the Romanian Soviet regime about a bank robbery.

A Week In Film #218: Welcome to 2013 (try again)

QPR: The Four Year Plan title screen

QPR: The Four Year Plan
Fascinating old-style documentary – fly-on-the-wall, no voiceover – following the fortunes of Queen’s Park Rangers football club after a motley band of Formula 1 billionaires and others buy it. In essence, a bunch of rich pricks act prickishly, with the coaches, footballers and the fans the subject of their fickle decisions.

Taistelu Näsilinnasta 1918 title screen

Taistelu Näsilinnasta 1918
It’s straight on to business in this tale of the Finnish Civil War. A platoon of Civil Guard militia penetrates into the besieged, Red-held city of Tampere, to assault and then hold their enemy’s headquarters. A shitload of people die.

Whilst it’s from the perspective of the ‘Whites’ (who were to win this bitter battle with the social democrats and socialists of the ‘Red’ side), it’s not sugar-coated – defeated foes are summarily executed, civilians who happen into their path are shot without compunction. An oft-told story, but one framed around a little-known conflict.

Saving Private Ryan title screen

Saving Private Ryan
Not the best war movie ever made, but neither is it the worst. Some excellently staged scenes. Spielberg knows how best to represent the familiar, and how to emotionally manipulate an audience.

The Untouchables title screen

The Untouchables
Brian De Palma directing, David Mamet scripting, Robert De Niro barnstorming, Kevin Costner murmuring, Ennio Morricone scoring. The Potemkin Steps relocated to Union Station, the cavalry charge on the Canadian border, stalker-cam through Sean Connery’s apartment, Frank Nitti’s sneer. “Hey mister, you forgot your bag!” “I do not approve of your methods!” “Teamwork!” Good stuff. A movie, not a historical document.

Act Of Valor title screen

Act Of Valor
Ohh-emm-gee. Okay, so I went into it knowing it was a piece of sabre-rattling propaganda (the whole ‘REAL NAVY SEALS APPEARING AS NAVY SEALS’ gimmick is something of a giveaway), but I was expecting something a little more sophisticated than cackling drugs kingpins teaming up with mad-eyed, scarfaced Chechen jihadists to take on Uncle Sam. An awful lot of civilians seem to get killed in the crossfire with nary a comment as well.

Aside from the one-dimensional Ladybird Book Of Liberty-meets-My Struggle Part 2: The War Against Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys aspects to the plot, you’d think the action side of it would be outstanding at least: but it’s not. Everything has been done before, better. It’s a regurgitated cocktail of The Expendables (but without any irony or cynicism), the Behind Enemy Lines sequels, the Sniper franchise, pretty much Chuck Norris’s entire oeuvre.

There was one memorable snatch of a scene early on that got me thinking that it might be, at least, a halfway-enjoyable spectacle: when the CIA officer is kidnapped and there’s a reverse-POV shot of her being rolled in carpet with a smooth segue into her being carried down some steps – there was an almost Hitchcockian visuality to it. But that was truly the exception – everything else is straight from Modern Military Heroics Film Shots 101 (night vision; sniper scopes; overhead imaging via a drone) or out of The A-Z Of War Film Memes (‘Hey guys, I’m going to be a dad!’; leaping onto a grenade to save his comrades-in-arms; the families getting together before the mission).

Perhaps most jarring of all is the narrated letter to the dead SEAL’s an-yet unborn son of which uses ‘inspiring words’ attributed to Tecumseh, Shawnee leader of a Native American Confederacy which was a sort of early nineteenth century al-Qaida, waging war against the United States. As well as lots of guff used to lionise the fighting man, there’s also the line “although a single twig may break, a bundle of twigs is strong”. Whilst it is a metaphor by no means restricted to the Italian Fascist movement, did the filmmakers really not think that would be a primary allusion for audiences?