I MEAN NO DISRESPECT TO ALL the understudies I have seen in theatrical productions, but the shows where the understudy stepped in for the headlining Broadway star left me feeling slightly disappointed. It was especially difficult for me when the show I was seeing was slated to open on Broadway, after its trial run. If it means anything I would feel the same type of disappointment if I bought tickets to a Florida amusement park and its major top ride was not open due to repairs. Am I any different from anyone else who wants to get exactly what they paid for? Now I will say when there is not a major actor in a theatrical production I do not pay attention to see if any of the roles will be played by an understudy. I guess I have always had faith in the producers and director that they have chosen a competent actor who could do the part just as well as the actor who was originally cast. A thought just came to me; I would be totally disappointed if I went to a restaurant for a specific meal I enjoyed only to find out they were not serving it that day. I feel disappointment is simply a part of human nature. THERE HAVE BEEN CERTAIN MOVIES I have seen that disappointed me. Maybe my expectations were set high due to the actors or director involved, but there have been times where I questioned why the film studio chose to make such a film. I remember when I was a kid there was a television show hosted by a man dressed up as a ghoul, warlock or zombie of some kind. It aired every week on the weekend, showing these old dated films. I always wondered if these pictures were ever released in a theater. There was a term for these kinds of movies; they were called “B movies.” Mainly they were low budget films; so, the actors were not the most poplar and the sets/costumes were not the best quality or sophistication. On a rainy Saturday I used to enjoy sitting down and watching these pictures. Some of the stories I remember were about killer tomatoes, 50-foot tall women and crazy aliens aka human beings in cheap looking rubber suits. B movie stories were always easy to follow as the scripts were kept to the minimum, both in words and depth of emotions. If you are not familiar with this type of film, this picture I believe wanted to come off as one of those B movies from a long time ago. ORDERED TO TAKE OUT A VITAL GERMAN radio tower on the eve of D-Day, a small group of soldiers discover something behind enemy lines that could change the course of history. This horror mystery movie starred Jovan Adepo (Fences, Mother!) as Boyce, Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street, Everybody Wants Some!!) as Ford, Mathilde Ollivier (The Misfortunes of Francois Jane) as Chloe, Pilou Asbaek (Ghost in the Shell, Game of Thrones-TV) as Wafner and John Magaro (The Big Short, Liberal Arts) as Tibbet. For me this picture had a strong retro vibe. The reason I say this is because most of the special effects were done the old-fashioned way, with makeup and costumes instead of CGI. The story was simple which allowed the writers to focus on an abundance of action scenes. I did not mind these scenes but after a while it seemed as if I was watching one long chase scene, going back and forth from the Nazis winning one round to the US forces winning the next and so on. Overall this movie was more of a novelty for me, something that belonged on television during a rainy Saturday afternoon.
1 ¾ stars
THERE WAS A PERIOD OF TIME long ago, when I was heavy into reading detective/crime novels, where I thought I might want to become a detective. I am certain the seed was planted in me by the Hardy Boys. There was a detective’s handbook I had gotten my hands on that I think I had read at least twice. One chapter of the book was devoted to the skills needed to be able to follow someone undetected. The following chapter talked about what steps a person should do to avoid capture. I still remember the first rule to avoid capture was to never take the same route on consecutive days. Whether by foot, public transportation or car; one should mix up their travel plans daily. After I had nearly memorized the handbook I spent one summer trailing different people in the neighborhood. It sounds silly now, but back then I thought if I could follow people and go unnoticed then it was a sign that I should pursue studies in criminology. What I discovered during that summer was people were certainly creatures of habit. The people I tailed followed the same course on a weekly basis. An elderly woman who rolled a shopping cart behind her always went to the butcher on Thursdays and the laundromat on Tuesdays. WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT DON’T most people fall into some type of routine in their daily lives? Speaking for myself, I find comfort when I follow a routine. No joke, people at the office can set their watches based on where I am and what I am doing. It takes a certain mindset because I know some individuals who would go crazy if they had to follow a set routine. I used to work with a salesperson who could not stand coming into the office to take care of paperwork. What they enjoyed about sales was the fact that each day would be at a different location, have a different set of circumstances and be among a different group of individuals. Anytime they were in the office they would start to get antsy within a couple of hours. I am not judging but there is no way I could handle such a schedule. The closest I came to it was when I headed a crew of furniture movers; but even there, I was the one who would plan out the week’s deliveries, having a little control over my schedule. In the case of the main characters in this historical drama, routine was necessary if the mission was going to be successful. AFTER WORLD WAR II THERE was one man that was credited with being the architect of the Holocaust and his name was Adolph Eichmann. Though there was no proof he survived the war, secret agents were determined to hunt down any clue. With Oscar Isaac (Star Wars franchise, The Promise) as Peter Malkin, Ben Kingsley (An Ordinary Man, Security) as Adolph Eichmann, Melanie Laurent (Beginners, My Son) as Hanna Elian, Nick Kroll (Uncle Drew, Adult Beginners) as Rafi Eitan and Lior Raz (The Kindergarten Teacher, Fauda-TV) as Isser Harel; this biographical thriller’s cast was excellent. They made the story come alive, though it took some work because the script started out way too slow and needed more depth to it. I enjoyed the last half of the movie more than the first; though I was fascinated with the agents’ plot which kept me engaged all the way through the picture. Granted I do not know how much of the story in this film was factual; but with a little more intensity and drama this script would have come up to join the cast’s high level of acting and make for a thrilling movie.
2 ¾ stars
SEEING a person willingly jump out of an airplane could elicit one of two responses: the individual is courageous or crazy. Though there is no way I would ever go skydiving, I would not judge someone who wants to experience such an activity. As I go through my daily life I am constantly witnessing acts of courage. There is the individual who admits to being out of shape, who comes to a fitness class, because they want to make a change in their life. The blind person who is navigating down a crowded, noisy city street or the parent who gets sick on roller coasters, sitting next to their child who is thrilled to be on the ride with their parent; to me all of these individuals are courageous and strong. There are so many other examples of courage that I could write about but it would take up all of my time today. FOR the past several months I have viewed news reports with an eye to the future. The news segments can range from peaceful protesters to refuges to the environment; I look at each one of these and am usually amazed at the amount of courage an individual has in the face of life or death, let alone the person who is willing to make a stand against injustice. Thinking back to some of the famous scientists who left their homeland for a better life or to just stay alive, there is something to be said for that individual’s braveness. Imagine if the scientist was not strong enough or courageous enough to leave a place where they were being persecuted; how different would the world have turned out? Whether a person actively engages in a cause or donates time or money to it, for them they are acting in a courageous way. One cannot necessarily compare different acts of courage; however, some do take on more risk and this movie based on a true story shows you how much risk one person was willing to take to make a difference. AFTER German forces took control of Warsaw they set up a camp in the middle of Antonia and Jan Zabinski’s, played by Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane, The Martian) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Misfortunates), zoo and got rid of most of the animals. The couple formed an idea that could save lives but they needed the zoo to remain open. This biographic drama was powered with Jessica’s acting. She was the dominant force in this film, though other actors such as Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Lutz Heck and Shira Haas (Princess, A Tale of Love and Darkness) as Urszula still drew my attention to them. The story was amazing, frightening, tragic and a few other adjectives. I will say the script did not come up to what I felt could have been a more powerful story. There were a few scenes that I am willing to bet were created simply for dramatic effect. This produced an odd seesawing effect between intensity and sweetness; for entertainment value it was okay but the story deserved more intensity in my opinion. Regardless, to see Jessica acting in this courageous story was time well spent.
2 ¾ stars
Let me first say I do not condone lying, but don’t you agree some lies are less harmful or hurtful than others? When I am attending a party where multiple people have contributed food items I will not eat any of it usually. If someone should ask me why I am not eating I will just say I am not hungry, even if I am. Unless I know the person I do not want to eat anything they created; I will stick to a store bought bag of pretzels. But would I tell them that is the reason? Absolutely not, so that is why I say I am not hungry. Technically it is a lie, but is it really hurting anyone? Now let me tell you about the time I took a helicopter ride, where the pilot asked the 5 of us for our weights. There was one person in the group that said a number that the rest of us were not sure was accurate. I wasn’t making a judgement call but I assumed the pilot needed exact weights to be able to distribute our weights evenly around the helicopter. The entire flight up I was concerned something was going to happen to us. Luckily nothing did, however what would have happened if that person actually did lie about their weight. Would the helicopter tip over on takeoff? Would a current of air push us into a tailspin? This could have been a lie that came with disastrous consequences. Though the scenarios I just described fall under a more personal domain, there are some lies that can affect a nation. PROSECUTOR Johann Radmann, played by Alexander Fehling (Inglorious Basterds, Young Goethe in Love), of the Attorney General’s office was the only person who believed the story was true about the school teacher being a former Nazi. With his boss Generalstaatsanwalt Fritz Bauer’s, played by Gert Voss (Sometime in August, Zettl), blessing Johann would find himself in a place where lying was easier than facing the truth. This film festival winner based on a true story played more like a thriller than drama in my opinion. Set in Germany during the 1950s, the story was a fascinating history lesson besides being a morality one. The cast which also included Andre Szymanski (Wolfsburg, In the Shadows) as journalist Thomas Gnielka and Friederike Becht (The Reader, Westwind) as Marlene Wondrak were all competent in their roles. In regards to the story, whether the more personal dramatic parts were real or not did not matter to me. I felt they only accentuated the magnitude of unfolding events. The other aspect to the story that I appreciated was the way the writers focused on such a monumental topic that had historical value yet made it to be told on a more human level. I cannot lie, this wa a real thought provoking movie. German was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/4 stars
If you only look through the viewfinder of your camera, you may miss out on experiencing a beautiful sunrise. What I am trying to say and remind myself of, is to look at the big picture. When I am visiting a new place, I get so wrapped up in making sure I shoot the perfect pictures, I sometimes forget to look around and see everything around me. It is like being self-absorbed to the point, shall we say, where one is so focused on what color to paint the walls of their house, that they are not focusing on the cracked foundation which is about to make the building fall down. It was this type of mentality of centering on one’s self that added the humor to this war story. Crazy as it may sound, this movie was able to take Nazis, heavy water for nuclear reactions, a dead body, infatuation and turn out a crazy, fun film. Isabelle Adjani (Queen Margot, Subway) was wonderful playing actress Viviane Denvers; who indignantly slapped a man in the face for being fresh with her. He immediately died. From that moment a chain of events was put into place where government official Jean-Etienn Beaufort, played by Gerard Depardieu (Cyrano de Bergerac, The Man in the Iron Mask), followed Miss Denvers as she made her way to Bordeaux, France. With the country on the verge of becoming Nazi occupied, it was imperative that Camille, played by Virginie Ledoyen (The Beach; Farewell, My Queen), kept the only containers of heavy water out of enemy hands. Into this great cast add Peter Coyote (A Walk to Remember, Bitter Moon) as mysterious Alex Winckler and try to keep up with the thrills and zaniness in this Cesar Award winning movie. I especially enjoyed Isabelle in her role, looking perfect as a movie star from the 1940’s. What a great antidote to unwind and watch a group of self-absorbed characters missing the big picture taking place around them. French, German, Italian with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD