Making up for lost time with Netflix!
This one focuses on Jan and Antonina Żabiński, proprietors of the Warsaw Zoo and their exploits in hiding Jews during WWII. Kicking off with the German invasion in Sept 1939, following through to eventual liberation by the Russian Army and the aftermath, it depicts how 300 people passed through the zoo on their way to freedom and how the Żabińskis managed to cover it all up, fooling the occupying German forces and in particular, one nasty supposed colleague who proves to be just as much of an a**hole as the other Germans.
Nicely shot period piece with excellent performances all round especially by American actress Jessica Chastain, in the role of the aforementioned wife. Doesn’t descend into brutality like some of its ilk and we’re left with a sense of gratified success which is heightened by the fact the Żabińskis only ever lost two of their guests and that was after they had left the zoo.
Well worth a look if you’re looking for something to stream on a winter’s night, 8/10
WWII piece centred around Marcel Marceau and his time with the French Resistance, smuggling Jewish orphans out of France. And all under the nose of one Klaus Barbie, the butcher of Lyon.
Now, this review carries a warning: the movie contains some of the most tense scenes I’ve ever seen on film. It is brutal in its depiction without being bloodthirsty and much is left to the imagination, yet there is an obvious and a sublime horror generated by the portrayal of atrocities carried out by Barbie against the Jewish population of Lyon.
Jesse Eisenberg is brilliant as the mime Marceau, and German actor Matthias Schweighofer suitably vicious in the Barbie role. Supporting cast are all well-appointed and nicely contribute to creating the intensity such a movie needs to adequately convey its concept and message.
Awesome cinematography as Marceau and kids trek through snow-covered forest by night with Barbie and his Nazis hot on their tail.
Ed Harris cameos as General Patton at both the opening and the close of proceedings to set scene and round off in style.
Only the third time I’ve done this but I’m slapping a 10/10 on this one.
First time back at the movies after lockdown!
Dramatisation of the push to upgrade the Air Force Cross awarded to William Pitsenbarger during the Vietnam War to the Medal of Honour. A young bushy-tailed Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman is assigned the task of investigating whether a MoH upgrade is warranted based on eye-witness accounts and new evidence that comes to the fore.
Along the way he encounters lotsa ducking and dodging as some of that new evidence creates a few sticky situations for our man to navigate through. Starting out with more than a little disdain for upgrading an award from a conflict 30 years prior, it becomes an exercise in gaining full recognition of the sacrifices that become so necessary in wartime.
Excellent performances from some of America’s acting royalty with William Hurt, Christopher Plummer, Samuel L Jackson, Ed Harris, Diane Ladd & Peter Fonda in his final role turning on the acid to help Huffman achieve his goal. And watching him change his perspective through the experience even in spite of seeing his own future become somewhat murky is a quite fascinating element.
Powerful, emotional and thought-provoking, this one isn’t a mere war movie and gives just a little insight into what men will do despite being faced with insurmountable odds. 8.5/10.
Of course with lockdown there’s no going to the movies so Netflix, Amazon Prime etc have been getting the workouts. And most of those have been reviewed before or are to put it bluntly not worth the effort. However this one on Acorn breaks the mould, featuring a few sizable names in Eddie Redmayne, Bill Nighy, Julie Christie and Christopher Lee, its a psychological thriller based at the outset of WWII.
A gentrified family is involved in a few things that might be considered a bit naughty but eldest daughter figures something smelly and slowly turns over the stones to reveal the reality of the situation. It’s a bit of a slow burn to start but as we go we see that all is not what it seems and it ducks and dives down a number of avenues and alleyways before we’re finally able to suss out what’s really going on.
Beautiful English countryside and ye olde architecture is the setting against a backdrop of the early days of the war when many Britons could perhaps be forgiven for thinking it might all be a sham. Good performances all round including a few no-names who equally foot it with the heavyweights.
Keeps you guessing until the very end and when the lights do finally go on it’s a eureka moment. Suspenseful and clever, almost too clever in parts but overall good to catch.
Two giant monoliths of British film in Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Ian McKellen turning a yarn of deception and intrigue as two online daters who seemingly innocently cross paths and hit it off.
However we are shown early that perhaps the latter’s intent isn’t exactly honourable and we begin to feel compassion for the former as she is slowly but surely manipulated into a position of vulnerability and primed for a sting.
Yet we have this sense that all is not what it appears to be and as we wade through the set ups & turns, we see that these senses are not unfounded and what starts off as a con comedy clearly becomes something more.
Sterling performances from the two front row members of Brit film royalty with nice supporting turns from the others and a plot that spills unexpectedly into our laps.
Those of nefarious intent ultimately receive just desserts and we’re left with a some sense of justice done, if somewhat a notion of query around bygone sins needing revisiting.
Keeps you guessing and while I figured something was amiss I would not have guessed it was what it was,
The story of mob hit man Frank Sheeran (no relation to Ed!) from Netflix who unlike most of his ilk was not Italian.
Also unlike most, he made it to a ripe old age at a time when his contemporaries were usually dispatched well ahead of time.
Three giants of moviedom, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, nicely digitally de-aged for relevant scenes, own the almost three and a half hours of screen time, and our own Anna Paquin shows up as one of Sheeran’s daughters, prompting a few local complaints around her lack of the same.
The proceedings explore the relationship between Sheeran and Teamster’s Union head honcho Jimmy Hoffa, splendidly portrayed by Pacino, and his supposed involvement in Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975.
Lotsa perhaps’ and maybe’s around nailing anyone for the assumed murder which remains open even today and which are certainly emphasised here, no doubt to avoid any legal ramifications the portrayal might have.
Dazzling turns by Pacino and De Niro however I think Joe Pesci probably edges it by a nose for his rendition of mob boss Russell Bufalino, who like Sheeran was one the few to avoid an early dispatch.
Nice reproduction of mid-seventies eastern US as Frank trundles up and down the coast painting houses and acting as mediator between varying mob factions as he goes.
Long but enjoyable and perhaps does offer the most likely answer to Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance.
Movie Review #9368 MOSELY.
Joint NZ/China CGI production despite the latter consistently being in the naughty corner for various impingements of freedoms.
Pleasantly surprising is this tale of thoriphants, mythical creatures vaguely resembling small elephants held in slavery and hanging onto legends of others, free and walking upright rather than on fours as they do.
One such family head, the title character, gets to break out of the conundrum and embark upon a journey which sees him encounter further mythical cuzzies, dastardly pursuers and a transforming power that carries definite Christian overtones. Of course, alls well that ends well and this is first and foremost a children’s story yet carries enough CSLewis-esque vibrations to keep the grownups interested and entertained.
CGI is great and the human characters suitably goofy with voice overs from a variety of kiwi actors and actresses including Lucy Lawless, Rhys Darby and good ole mainstay Tem Morrison.
It all unfolds as engaging albeit not completely original but certainly not as predictable as some. Nice surprise, 8/10.
Movie Review #4864 ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.
First one from Tarantino since The Hateful Eight in 2015, this is another timepiece set in 1969 around Hollywood actor Rick (Leonardo Di Caprio) & his stunt double/sidekick/buddy Cliff (Brad Pitt).
Underpinning the proceedings, lurking around the edges then progressively into view is Charles Manson’s gang of nutcases and we have a sense of anticipation that builds all the way through. Along the journey we have a number of little interconnecting Tarantino vignettes that introduce us to the celebrity list of the time including Sharon Tate, James Stacy, Roman Polanski, Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, Sam Wanamaker, Michelle Phillips and the ubiquitous Mama Cass, showing each interacting with our two lads and reinforcing their place albeit fictional, in the hierarchies.
Tarantino does love to do the unexpected and how well he does it when we explore one chain of events yet another transpires, all the while not letting truth spoil a good story. But of course that’s what makes a Quentin flick different and without it we probably would have had a rather ho-hum affair. The two lead bods are great, especially di Caprio who moves between portrayals within portrayals to vulnerability & reality seamlessly as crossing a state line in the desert. The names are here too; Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Brenda Vaccaro and Luke Perry in his last role.
Cinematography is great, it is long and perhaps a bit slow in patches but the tension builds in all the right places and it ducks and dives like the rollercoaster we’ve come to expect from Tarantino.
Overall an 8/10.
Movie Review #3975 YESTERDAY.
We saw Yesterday today! Sorry just really wanted to say that.
Probably the year’s feel good movie has Jack, a struggling muso (yep can identify with that!) broadsided by a bus during a blackout.
He awakes to two missing teeth and a world missing the music of The Beatles, amongst other things. So, upon figuring this little malapropism he ends up becoming a huge star singing L&McC songs and allowing this world to believe he is the greatest songwriter of all time. Trouble is it comes with a price, what good does it do a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul? Our boy is smart enough to realise this and of course makes amends before it’s too late. And his journey keeps us entertained from start to finish with some classy renditions of Beatles favs and an interesting supporting slot from one Ed Sheeran plus a brief cameo from soulster Michael Kiwanuka.
Main plot is somewhat predictable but there are a few unexpected turns that provide amusing twists by heading in a slightly different direction yet nicely reinforce the alternative universe that Jack finds himself in.
Overall a nice movie that could have easily turned into schmaltz but didn’t, based upon a premise that has been hinted at in the past but not done to quite the same effect, 8/10.
Movie Review #0004 TOY STORY 4.
Can’t believe it’s almost 25 years since the original Toy Story movie blew all previous efforts around CGI out of the water. Clever universe, cool characters and awesome parodies built around the imaginations of children, their play and the toys they find interesting and amusing.
Can’t help but wonder whether those toy manufacturers which at the time chose not to license their products to the franchise might feel a bit like the guy who ‘lost Queen’ in Bohemian Rhapsody!
Anyway, this is the fourth is the series (obviously!) and probably the best since the original. Didn’t really enjoy #3 but #2 was good, introducing the concept of Woody being a collectible. The gang is back for numero quattro along with a few new faces to compliment the mix. Some of the regulars do suffer reduced screen time but this is probably better than trying to cram too much in.
It continues on from the end of #3 with the chums now under the ownership of cute lil Bonnie who has embarked upon a road trip with mom and dad. Of course, toys are lost and found along the way and it’s left to Woody and Buzz to save the day with host of antics and tricks to amuse and amaze.
Ending is a little twisty and while seemingly a wrap up to the series, there is just a sliver of an opening for a Toy Story 5 to add to the legend. And, this smart*ss, sorry, critic for one will welcome that.
Overall great for the kids, the big kids and the pretend grown ups with enough thrills and spills to entertain the real littlies as well. Good one Pixar, 8.5/10.
I'm a movie nut from way back with my first ever being The Hallelujah Trail from 1964. Ever since being mesmerized by the giant screen, the darkness that went on forever & the infernally uncomfortable seats + having to stand for God Save the Queen, I've been enticed ever since to duck into a theatre whenever I can for a few hours of escapism. My favourite movie of all time is Schindler's List, one of only two movies I've ever cried in (the other was Bambi when I was 6!) & I'm a sucker for a damn good comedy; Dumb & Dumber, The Hangover & Death at a Funeral stand out. I'm also a musician and work in IT. I have 4 grandchildren who also seem to enjoy their movie excursions with grandad. I can be reached at email@example.com.