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Flash Movie Review: The Railway Man

Though the physical and verbal blows ended a long time ago they are still remembered. The changing landscape of an aging body may cover up the dents of abuse but the tremors remain just beneath the surface. Pain never discriminates, it only knows to dig toward one’s heart. It was not until I was in my 20s before I realized there was supposed to be space between my shoulders and ears. I can still remember when a friend or relative expressed kindness with an innocent physical gesture; my whole body would tense up. It was not something that was done consciously, more instinctive or something I learned at a young age. In addition each verbal assault can be recalled verbatim to this day. They dominate any positive comments I may receive by shoving them to a junk room in my mind. To say it takes a lot of work to correct this circuitry in the brain would be putting it mildly. Based on a true story former British army officer Eric Lomax, played by Colin Firth (A Single Man, The King’s Speech), was someone I could relate to in this film festival winning movie. Years have past since he was forced to work on a railroad for Japanese troops while he was a prisoner of war. His wife Patti, played by Nicole Kidman (The Hours, The Golden Compass), had no idea what her husband had to endure during the war because he never talked about it. She only knew something was not right. Nicole and Colin were beautifully suited to play husband and wife. From their performance I was easily convinced they were a married couple; that was how commanding they were in playing their characters. Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, The Avengers) as Finlay had a curious role in which he was well suited for the part. The director had a good eye for setting up scenes where I rather enjoyed the contrast between the young and older Eric characters. Where this film let me down was the script. I found myself becoming bored through parts, after going from intense scenes to average ones and back. Having only seen one trailer for this picture, I imagined there would have been more dynamic emotions and energy on display. In my opinion the story warranted it. One need not have to relate to the subject matter to know there was a powerful story here.  It just was not executed to its best advantage.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Stalingrad

Situated in the middle of a city block sat an empty lot, where a six story apartment building used to stand. A developer bought the land and knocked the building down so he could construct a bigger building, but when the economy soured he went bankrupt. All that remained on the lot was gravel and pieces of broken cement that looked like they were once part of a cliff that had been weathered away by the wind. A chain-link fence surrounding the property was now dull with rust that had stained the ground like ruined brown mascara off of a crying face. There was nothing to see in the rubble at first glance; however, if you closely peered at one of the larger cement boulders towards the left side, a single small flower had broken through a crack, releasing a bloom shaded in midnight blue with white star like flecks. It was extraordinary to look at and amazing it could live among the ruins. Finding beauty in a hostile environment was the hook in this dramatic World War II movie about an epic battle in history. A small group of Russian soldiers were holed up in a strategic apartment building, trying to defend it from Nazi troops led by Captain Kan, played by Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted, King Kong). As the two sides fought for control of the building Katya and Masha, played by Mariya Smolnikova (The Daughter) and Yanina Studilina (Yasnovidyashchaya), found their lives going down different paths among the horrors around them. The opening scenes in this action film were unbelievable and frightening at the same time. The production values were quite good in both outdoor and indoor scenes. I do not know how accurate the story was compared to the actual battle; but the writers had ample help to create a historic, dramatic story. Unfortunately it was a big letdown for me because the acting and the script collapsed in the scenes. There were some scenes that really were tough to watch but I sat in my seat without much reaction. From such a boffo opening this movie seemed to slide down into disrepair. I am afraid the beauty I thought I saw in this film turned out to be a mirage. The languages spoken were Russian and German with English subtitles. There were scenes that had blood and violence in them.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Book Thief

Some people determine their wealth based on how many books they have in their possession. I can absolutely understand the concept. Books are portals that let me visit different lands, times and people. Sitting in a crowded subway car does not bother me; knowing that as soon as I crack open the cover to my book, I will be off on an adventure down to a place such as the Amazon River. Another benefit that comes with books is the opportunity to share them with someone else. One of my favorite date nights is going to a bookstore, where we split up and seek out books we think the other person would enjoy reading. I consider the act of reading aloud to someone to be a sweet, loving gesture. You can now understand why the title to this dramatic movie, based on the best selling novel, intrigued me. The book thief in this story was a young girl named Liesel, played by Sophie Nelisse (Monsieur Lazhar, Esimesac). Set in Germany during the early stages of World War II, Liesel was sent to live with foster parents Rosa and Hans, played by Emily Watson (War Horse, Breaking the Waves) and Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise). As the horrors of war took place around her, Liesel’s love of books provided a safe haven for her and the people around her. Though I have not read the book, after seeing this film festival winner I have the urge to read it now. Besides the wonderful performance from Sophie Nelisse, I thought Geoffrey Rush did a great job with his role. The chemistry came across as lovingly real between the two of them. I did have some confusion on the circumstances that led Liesel to her foster parents, however. There were several other scenes that seemed rushed or without much emotional depth. This can be attributed to the script, for I found it to be uneven. Having the story told from a child’s perspective was something I found different then other films that dealt with the subject of Nazi Germany. One thing I found odd was the use of a narrator, especially towards the latter part of the movie where I felt the story was being quickly rushed to wrap things up. I liked parts of this film but the thing I really enjoyed was being reminded of a saying I used to hear when growing up–no one can ever rob you of an education. A few scenes had German spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Emperor

The stranger standing ahead of me started yelling when he heard me tell the checker I picked Argo to win for best picture. He said the film was a total lie. I told him it was a movie not a documentary. In response to his claim that people would believe the movie’s story was true, I told him he did not have to worry; with people barely reading and writing these days, they would not remember the story. It was the perfect thing to say to him because he calmed down. As he walked away, the checker rolled her eyes. History lessons via movies are an acceptable form in my opinion. However, I understand the writers and director can take liberties with the story, to make it more compelling for the viewer. Like most things these days, one always needs a fact checker. From a historical standpoint, I found this movie’s story attractive. With Japan’s surrender ending WWII, the fate of the country would be determined by General Douglas MacArthur, played by Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln, In the Valley of Elah). As supreme commander of the occupying forces, General MacArthur would have to determine if Emperor Hirohito should be tried as a war criminal. The job of finding evidence against the Emperor became the responsibility of General Bonner Fellers, played by Matthew Fox (We Are Marshall, Lost-TV). His job was complicated by his determination in locating Aya Shimada, played by Eriko Hatsune (Norwegian Wood, Spiral), the Japanese exchange student he met back in college. The movie had too much to handle in the story department. If it would have focused either on General MacArthur or on General Fellers’ story, the movie would have been more interesting. I do not know why people have been saying this was Tommy Lee’s best performance since LIncoln because it was absolutely not. I found him to be one dimensional, though part of the fault falls on the poor script. The scenes that had to do with history kept my attention. As for the rest it left me cold.

2 1/4 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Lore

The first time it happened was when I was in 5th grade. An older boy yelled a derogatory remark at me about my religion. When I told the teacher, she looked at me and asked if I saw any dirt on me. Replying no to her, she said I should not pay attention to something that is not true. That was it; however, it would not be the only time I heard a religious slur. When I hear children say hateful things to other children, I wonder how someone so young can be prejudiced, let alone even know what they are actually saying sometimes. More times than not, one only has to look at their home life. Words could not be truer in this dramatic movie set near the end of World War II. Eldest child Lore, played by relative newcomer Saskia Rosendahl, must take her siblings to their grandmother when her German officer father and mother were summoned away from their home, as Allied forces were sweeping the country. To navigate the dangerous route; Lore would have to depend on Thomas, played by Kai-Peter Malina (The White Ribbon, To Faro), the kind of person she was taught not to trust. This unhurried thriller did a wonderful job in the way it told its compelling story. I also felt the cinematography and soundtrack only enhanced the emotional depth of this film. For the actors who played the siblings, it was surprising how good they were since they were all relatively new to acting. If we are to believe that we come into this world pure and innocent, then it is certainly amazing what can be taught to us as children. You may have heard that saying “out of the mouths of babes.” I just wonder how many times are those children echoing someone else. German with English subtitles.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Incredible Mr. Limpet

Before there was Space Jam or Who Framed Roger Rabbit, there was The Incredible Mr. Limpet. What became the final animated movie out of the Warner Brothers Animation Studio, this was a fun movie to watch from a different era. I saw this film a long time ago and it has held up pretty well, even with its dated story. Don Knotts (Pleasantville, The Andy Griffith Show-TV) as Henry Limpet was a quiet, mild-mannered man who felt the most at ease when he was in the presence of his fish. The year was 1941 and the world was at war. Not qualified for the navy while his friend George Stickel, played by Jack Weston (Dirty Dancing, Wait Until Dark) was enlisted; Henry wished he could do something to help his country. There is that saying that starts out: Be careful what you wish for… well, Henry was in for a surprise. While at Coney Island he fell into the water and magically transformed into a fish. Little did we know what kind of contribution Henry Limpet would make to the United States’ success during World War II. This animated/live action movie was made before there was CGI and I have to tell you, I enjoyed the old fashioned pureness of it. I felt like a little kid again; all I needed was a box of Sno-Caps and Jujubeas candy.

 

3 stars — DVD

 

Flash Movie Review: Days of Glory

I did not need to understand what the actors were saying in this movie; in fact, I did not. The actors were so good, I easily felt what they were going through in, what I have to tell you were some intense scenes. Among the  outstanding cast were Jamel Debbouze (Amelie, Outside the Law) as Said Otmari and Samy Naccri (The Code, Return to Algiers) as Yassir. During World War II, France was aided by enlisted men from North Africa, to help liberate France from Nazi occupation. These men hoped that with their help, in freeing the “motherland,” they would be treated as equals by the French. I never knew about this part of history and was dumbfounded that in the middle of this horrific war, where there was common ground, the North African soldiers still experienced racist encounters. They were denied promotions, time for leave–were not allowed the same food as the French soldiers who were fighting along side of them. To see these men devote themselves to the common good, in spite of such treatment, was inspiring to me. A former Oscar nominated movie, that brings to light an ugly injustice.  French/Arabic with English subtitles.

 

3 1/2 stars — DVD

 

Flash Movie Review: Red Tails

Should a movie inspired by true events inspire us? Already in place was a wonderful piece of history that just needed to be told. A crew of African American pilots have endured prejudice, segregation and the lowest priority missions during World War II. They never backed down, hoping that one day they would do what they were trained to do–fly an important mission. How in the world did they come up with this lifeless script is beyond me. What could have been a powerful movie with outstanding characters, sounded so melodramatic and one dimensional; I was bored. It is an utter shame that George Lucas, who bankrolled this movie with his own personal money, could not have hired proper writers. His reason for using his own funds, he has said, was due to the banks fearful to back a movie with a black cast. Is he kidding? I assume they did not want to throw money at a poorly made movie. Now I get it, that actors wanted to be part of this movie, hoping to tell the story of the pilots from the Tuskegee training program. However, in my opinion, Terrence Howard (Iron Man, Hustle & Flow) playing Colonel A.J. Bullard and Nate Parker (The Secret Life of Bees, The Great Debaters) playing Marty “Easy” Julian should get new managers. This movie had no excitement, no strong action scenes and idiotic dialogue. What a shame.

 

1 1/2 stars

 

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