The Great Gatsby (5 Stars)

A story ahead of it’s time and one that had been relatively shadowed upon it’s release. The 1920s are seen as a decadent and wondrous time filled with opportunity and promise: The American Dream. Who better to protray the endless hope of achieving the American Dream than the mesmerising Leonardo Dicaprio. He is spell-boundingly brilliant as the man who literally would move heaven and earth to be with the love of his life. He captures innocence, love, ambitious, endless optimism seemingly effortlessly. He is truly a joy to watch.

Fitzgerald’s brilliant story comes to life so beautifully. The decadence and the beauty of the American Dream, and in reality the fact that beneath the luxury and the gilded façade lies the smearing of darkness and dirt.

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September (1 1/2 Stars)

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This has to be one of the most bizarre movies I have ever seen and I am quite disappointed by it, it is a German film and I normally enjoy German films but this one…I don’t know.

The film is about 4 families/relationships living and how their lives are effected by the 9/11 Terrorist attacks. It’s sort of a snap-shot in time into four families. There is not real storyline and there is no real progression through the film. There are just four stories that sort of meander through the film. It’s a film that leaves you with more unanswered questions rather than solutions and resolutions.

It reminds me a lot of Crash or Brooklyn’s Finest a meandering storyline that tries to be arty and I don’t know, maybe I am missing something, but I just don’t get them. I think this film was lost on me. I’m not a fan of the whole genre of films.

The Revenant (4 Stars)

Finally, Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar for best performing actor – and it was very well deserved. I also love watching Leonardo DiCaprio acting, he is wonderful and each character he creates just seems so well created, complex and real. I’ve been wanting to see this film for a long time, because DiCaprio is one of my favourite actors, so I was getting a bit worried I’ll miss it in the cinema due to me being busy and cinema screen times. However, because he won the Oscar, the cinema gave it a bit of a revival so I was able to catch it.

This is not my favourite DiCaprio film, although it was a challenging and a great role and I thought he played it well…I thought that at two and a half hours the film seemed overly long and quite slow. Whilst I can forgive the film for being slow because it is about one man’s rather long and dangerous journal through wilderness America whilst seriously injured. I just thought that perhaps it would have been 20-30 minutes shorter. I thought the pairing of Tom Hardy and DiCaprio worked well…although for some reason Tom Hardy’s accent annoyed me in this film, so I didn’t enjoy his performance as well as I thought I would. Given the length and Tom Hardy, I knocked a star off.

The cinematography in this film was breathtakingly beautiful and some of the amazing film sequences were really nice, it was a beauty to watch. I really would recommend watching this movie. I think I’ll catch it again when it’s out on DVD, maybe I’ll warm to it a little more and rate it higher next time.

Four Minutes (3 Stars)

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Four Minutes had an interesting enough storyline, an elderly woman, Traude Krueger (Monica Bleibtreu), is a piano teacher within a Women’s prison, uptake on the lessons is slow so the warden encourages her to find new students. One woman, Jenny Von Loeben (Hannah Herzsprung), with a severe attitude problem turns up and Traude refuses to let her play the piano. With this refusal, Jenny throws a fit of rage and nearly kills a prison warden, but she succeeds and is able to gain access to the piano – where she plays fantastically. Traude senses the Jenny’s talent and agrees to teach her. Traude begins to learn about Jenny and her life whilst together they try to nurture the girl’s talent and overcome her defence mechanism as they try for a prestigious music competition, where the young woman has just four minutes to prove her talent.

The film itself is a little slow, painfully slow in fact and whilst it is interesting I did feel that it’s lack of momentum failed to sustain my interest throughout the film. I don’t suppose the added situation of a very elderly cat, when is losing his marbles helped either. I would have to pause the film every 20 or so minutes to sort out one of his various demands (Food, Outside, Food, Outside, Entertainment, Sort out Confusion, More food…you get the idea). I guess this added level of distraction made the film drag on even longer, which I don’t think was the films fault.

Whilst Bleibtreu and Herzsprung gave gifted performances, I think a lack of script failed to develop this into a true winner of a film, which is a pity.

Stalingrad (5 Stars)

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If I was perhaps a bit annoyed about Before the Fall for its atypical portrayal of students, Stalingrad was an excellent choice to counteract that.

Stalingrad is a portrayal of one army division as they are transferred from Italy to the Eastern Front. In the first world war, the Eastern Front had been rather successful for the German army. Although they had initial assessed that the Russian Empire would fall within six weeks of attack, it actually took 3 years, the German army was able to knock out the Empire and end the Russian involvement in the war by 1917.

The second time, Germany attacked the now Soviet Union initially went very well. Causalities were three times higher for the Soviets than they were for the Germans. But with the onset of Winter, the tables started to turn for the Germans and by the time the Battle of Stalingrad had ended, Germany had been dealt it’s first major military defeat.

This film tells a very realistic story of what it was like to be a German soldier during that catestrophic loss. I don’t really want to speak much about the film because I don’t want to form any opinions that could influence someone watching it.

The only thing I do want to say is put it on your must seen movies list. If you don’t have a list. Make one.

My only gripe is not so much the film but the dubbing. I use to always watch films dubbed and I use to prefer it. Now I have been learning German I have started to watch a lot more German films, the majority of which are not dubbed. I also watch documentaries and primary footage that is usually subtitled but rather dubbed. All I can say now is I HATE watching dubbed movies. I much prefer reading them.

Before the Fall (4 Stars)

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1942, Friedrich Weimar (Max Riemelt) an ordinary nobody and son of a factory worker boxes impresses a teacher for a National Political Academy (NaPolA); an elite Hitler boarding School where graduation ensures a successful future in the Third Reich and no doubt a glittering career. and gets an interview. A dream come true for Friedrich.

This is a coming of age story during the Third Reich. The ‘correct’ way to come of age would be to succeed within the school and become a machine-soldier, perfect for the Fatherland, obey, follow and fight.

Three boys stand out. Siegfried (Martin Goeres) from the start is seen as unworthy of being an elite member of society. Albrecht (Tom Shilling) is the son of an elite member, sent to a prestige school to follow in his father’s footsteps, and given a easy-ride through the school. Friedrich, the perhaps the most roughest rock to be beaten and shaped into a Nazi elite diamond.

This is a great film, that makes you believe that resistance and defiance was rampant through the ranks, that not everyone was brainwashed and willingly followed extreme propaganda designed to make those seen as non-Aryan as criminals and filth not worth living. This film tells a story that is untypical story. In a similar way to Schindler’s List tells an untypical story. It’s a great story, a boy faced with a decision stands up and rebels – but it is not the real story. The real story is the story of the other boys, as the other caption puts it. The some 15,000 boys who successfully past through the school full of the ideology of hate and went to spread the message of hate. This film is great for showing that the system didn’t always work, but it did work, really well.

Triple 9 (2 Stars)

I was bitterly disappointed by this film, I think it was because I saw it had Kate Winslet in it and I thought it was going to be a great film. Only it just seemed to be really bitty. There was hardly any back story, there’s not real character introduction or character progression and you sit there wondering why certain characters have behaved the way they do…and you don’t really know why.

I think as a film it just didn’t work too well and maybe it was because it was too complex a storyline to fit into two or so hours.

I think this story would work much better in a television series. I was just really bored and was more interested in the film finishing so I could head over to my new German course.