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.

Rosenstraße (3 1/2 Stars)

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This film is based on a true story. In 1943, after the defeat of Stalingrad. The tables were turning for the Nazis and it was the beginning of the end. However, that did not deter the Nazis from their persuing of the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’. The Nazis rounded up the remaining jews from Berlin, from this group approximately 1,800 were housed in Rosenstraße (Rose Street). There was something special about this group, because they were an inter-marriage. The majority of the men were married to German or Aryan women. This had to some point protected the men from being deported earlier. Although they were still subjected to the rest of the Jewish laws, such as having to give up their jobs, being refused entry to the cinema and being forced to wear the Star of David – marking them clearly as a Jew.

This round up would have almost certainly marked them to go to the East, almost certainly to a death camp, such as Auschwitz. However the wives of these men did something remarkable, the never divorced their husbands, even though it would have been incredibly easy for them to do so. Even more, when their husbands were taken, they found them in Rosestraße and they waited – day and night, they waited. Faced with opposition against the regime and their plan to remove the Jews from Berlin, what will they do?

This is a lovely retelling of the story, seen through the eyes of one of the women who helped save her husband. Although, it must be noted that this is a fictional retelling, and whilst the event did occur – it did not occur exactly as how it did in the film. It is very much worth reading about it.

The film also gives the sense and the hope that it was seemingly relatively easy to get the Nazi’s to back down, simple stand in the cold for a week, resist the fear of standing in front of a machine gun and voila, you will defeat the Nazis. It was not that easy in reality – the regime was big and thousands of people who protested and resisted against the Nazis were sent to Concentration Camps and killed, such as outspoken members of the Church and he White Rose group to just name a few.

It does pose an interesting question though, if faced with an injustice such as a stranger losing their husband because of their religion or whatever the reason – to see his deportation. Would you, a stranger, stop and say this is not right. Would you help fight to right an injustice even if it was not an injustice against you. Or would you walk past Rosenstraße and go about your day?

Dad’s Army (1 1/2 Stars)

I wasn’t overly looking forward to this film, something told me it just wasn’t going to be all that great. I suppose it was because I was never really a huge fan of the television series, whilst it was funny and there was the odd laugh, it just seemed all a bit too silly – I mean no one could be that stupid and incompetent really?

Well the film is much like the TV series and I don’t think you have to be a fan of the TV show to appreciate this film. I just felt that despite a great cast that has some of Britain’s finest actors in it: Bill Nighly, Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, Bill Paterson, Sarah Lancashire, Mark Gatiss and Alison Steadman, I just wasn’t that inspired.

Throughout the film it almost seemed like copyright prevented some catchphrases and the theme music being used but perhaps the sustained cloak and dagger references to the tv show were just there to entertain those who were a fan.

As for the storyline, I just felt that it was worthy of a 30 minute TV episode but it had been dragged out to make a feature film, and it was painfully too long.

Whilst I did enjoy the moderate nostalgia trip, it did make for an incredibly dull two hours at the cinema.

 

Deadpool (4 Stars)

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Now this is a film that doesn’t take itself seriously. I find it very reminiscent of Scream and it is almost of is Marvel are mocking their traditional Superhero film franchise with this film and it works. Ryan Reynolds, an unlikely role, at least I think so given I usually associate him with the Proposal, one of the view Chic Flicks I have seen. It’s great that he can adapt and change out of a genre.

The generally script of this film is formulaic in terms of a traditional Superhero storyline, yet it is made refreshingly different with Ryan Reynolds personification of a witty script and writer’s ability to have some fun with this film. I particularly like the sustained references to this being a superhero movie and Reynold’s charm as the rather loveable Anti-hero Hero. This film is more closely linked to the Happy upbeat Vibe of Guardians of the Galaxy and a welcome departure from the more tedious and getting old Iron Man 3 saga of the Franchise.

I actually really look forward to seeing a sequel of this Superhero.

Ida (5 Stars)

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Poland 1962, Anna is a young Catholic orphan about to enter her vows to become a Nun with the convert who has looked after her since she was a small child. However, before she takes her vows Anna’s Mother Superior forces Anna to meet her Aunt, Wanda, Anna’s only surviving relative. In a first strained meeting Anna is shocked to learn that she was not born a Catholic, but was born Jewish and her real name Ida Lebenstein. Ida/Anna and her Aunt return to Ida’s parents village to discover what happened to them during the Second World War.

This film has not really got much of an international acclaim to it, mostly because the film is Polish. I think it’s a pity that some great films filmed in non-English get so little attention in Hollywood on the international spotlight because they are not in English.

It’s shot completely in black and white in gives it a now very uncommon and old-fashioned screen ratio of 4:3. This set up in a way helps to make the film feel more like a fly on the wall documentary about a real Ida actually in search of her family’s history during the Holocaust. It is also interesting that the Holocaust is never once mentioned throughout this film but is built into the whole fabric of the film. Everyone where is empty, everyone is living a life half lived, everyone is coming through the motions but the whole atmosphere is thick, heavy and dense with loss.

My only gripe with this film is the subtitles. The film tends to shoot scenes lower down, with a lot of shoulder and head shots and a lot of scenery space filling the top half of the screen – a real 1960s vibe – however as I do not speak Polish, I need the subtitles. Sadly these subtitle are kept at the bottom, when really they should have been moved to the top to allow the actors to be more visible. I wish this attention to detail had been continued to the same degree as the director’s rigour for the rest of the film.

It truely is a work of art and very much deserved it’s Oscar and Bafta awards. It’s just a shame it doesn’t get as much attention and acclaim as it rightly should.

Far From the Madding Crowd (4 Stars)

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A great cast of talented actors appear in this breathtaking film. I loved it. I was not familiar with the actual storyline, so for once I was excited to watch a film and not know the outcome of it. I enjoyed going through the highs and the lows, the hoping and wishing for Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan) to pick the right one of her three suitors (Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge) and her despair when she didn’t.

Each portrayal of the characters was brilliant – particularly the horrible Sergeant Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), who you hate, but also feel incredibly sorry for – Sturridge manges to place his character perfectly between the realm of just enough to hate him but not too much that you cannot pity his tragic circumstance. I am really beginning to rate Matthias Schoenaerts as an actor, 2015 was a very good year for him, with three great films under his belt. I look forward to seeing his future work, he is a pleasure to watch.

Creed (2 1/2 Stars)

Ever had Film deja vu? Well you’ll experience it with this one. Creed is a spin off of the Rocky series franchise, which began in 1976. Obviously this film is a little different because instead of Rocky being the lead Boxer in this film, Adonis Johnson takes the lead. Adnois is the son of one of Rocky’s greatest opponent and best friend, Apollo Creed. Rocky instead after reluctance becomes Johnson’s manager and trainer. Together the two overcome challenges in each other’s lives as they head to the biggest fight of Johnson’s career.

The film goes through the same Rocky formula, there are set backs, let downs, challenges and drama but you know that in the end no matter what has gone on in the film a victory will occur.

Whilst I found the film entertaining and there is just something about the steps and the music that gets you really motivated to enjoy this film, it isn’t anything new.

Spotlight (4 1/2 Stars)

‘They knew and they let it happen’

A long anticipated film for me did not disappoint. Spotlight is based on Spotlight team at the Boston Globe, who won the 2003 Pulitzer prize for their series of articles uncovering the child abuse scandal perpetrated by priests within the Catholic Church.

The cast perform beautifully together in this drama that has punch. It is gritty, realistic. The touches that highlight the hand shake and turn the other cheek to avoid rocking the boat atmosphere is nicely done. The film is also very appropriate, touching on a highly sensitive subject in a dignified way. As Sacha (Rachel McAdams) says in the film, Spotlight told this story, but importantly told it right.

By the end of the film my blood ran cold as the impact on the abuse and how it superseded not only Boston, but America as well was well executed.

This film deserves every one of it’s six Oscar and three BAFTA nominations.