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Centurion [DVD]
Centurion [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Fassbender
Offered by Magic Movies Ltd
Price: £3.00

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little bit of Gladiator, King Arthur and 300?, 3 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Centurion [DVD] (DVD)
While watching this I felt reminded of Gladiator, King Arthur and 300. To compare Centurion (a British movie by the way) to the just mentioned movies is not in its favour as it is not up to the comparison, I'm afraid. Nevertheless it is entertaining. However, compared to the three others, Centurion is super gory ( and this from a war movie buff!). By the wa, Dominic West, from the HBO series The Wire, is in this one too but he is not the main character. He stars as General Vilnius. Michael Fassbender has the leading role as the Centurion Quintus Dias. The German actor Fassbender could already be seen in 300, Inglourious Basterds and The Devil's Whore, to name but a few of his movies.

The year is 117 AD. The Roman Empire stretches from Spain to Egypt and as far as the Black Sea in the East. Only Britain is fighting off its invaders. The Empire is stopped by the savagely fierce Picts. Centurion Quintus Dias is the only survivor of a Pictish raid. He joins the legendary Ninth Legion of General Vilnius who is on a mission to erase the Picts and their leader Gorlacon from the face of the earth. When they are ambushed and the general is captured Quintus Dias is left alone with a small platoon far behind enemy lines. They first attempt to free their general and after this the real hunt begins. Led by a female warrior tracker (Olga Kurylenko), surnamed she-wolf, who has been mutilated by Romans in her youth and sworn to destroy each and every one of them, the Picts hunt them relentlessly. Without the help of a Pictish outcast, said to be a witch, they would not stand a chance but even so, they are soon highly decimated and in great trouble.

As said before, Centurion is really gory. It reminded me of Gladiator because of the battles in the woods. Of King Arthur because of the way the flee and are hunted, because of the scenery, mountains and snow and also because of the female warriors. Same for 300. A little group outnumbered by a fierce enemy. The end however is quite different from the other three.

As I already said, it is not as good as the other mentioned movies, since it is not heavy on psychology and the Picts are shown as savages whereas we are led to believe the Romans were faultless, but it is an entertaining watch with loads of battle and fighting scenes.

For a change the trailer is quite true to the movie.

Mongol: The Rise to Power of Genghis Khan [DVD] (2007)
Mongol: The Rise to Power of Genghis Khan [DVD] (2007)
Dvd ~ Tadanobu Asano
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £2.69

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Movie on the Rise of Genghis Khan, 25 Aug. 2010
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What is the best word to describe this movie? I would say it is enthralling. The cinematography is stunning. The vastness of the Mongolian steppe would leave no one indifferent but captured in such wonderful pictures there is no escaping the enchantment. These amazing views are underlined by one of the most convincing scores I have heard in any movie recently. Chanting monks, female singers, musical parts. Picture wise it did remind me of Urga aka Close to Eden, a gorgeous Mongolian movie I haven seen a few years back. We can easily deduce that material life in the Mongolina steppe has not changed much. People still live in yurts, even the clothes bear a certain resemblance.

The Russian movie Mongol is the first installment of a trilogy on the live of Genghis Khan. It shows his childhood, how he chose his wife Borte (Khulan Chuluun), the great love of his life, how his father is killed and how he later has to fight for his survival until he becomes the unifier of the Mongolian tribes and their leader. He is not yet called Genghis Khan, he is still Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) a boy from a modest background whose father was one of many Khans.

Life at those times seemed to have been incredibly hard. The tribes were stealing from each other (horses and women), assaulted each other, killed each other. It is hard to imagine a life of greater insecurity than this. Whenever the future Genghis Khan triumphed over someone he was shown as very just and generous. As a consequence of this behaviour people wanted to follow him, they chose him as their leader.

The Genghis Khan we see is someone who inspires pity because of the hardships he has to endure and admiration for the way he treats people, especially his wife to whom he is very attached.

I cannot say much about the historical accuracy. Usually Genghis Khan, who was once the leader of the greatest empire that ever existed, is shown as a merciless cruel despot. There is not much room for beauty in those tales of his life. I tried to find out more and apparently it depends on the sources that are being used whether his portrait is more negative or more positive.

I was fascinated by the spiritual aspects in the movie, the deity that appeared in the form of a wolf. The wolf is very meaningful to the people of the Mongolian steppe. Certainly the depiction of the Mongolian religion is not accurate but I liked this dimension.

I thought the acting was excellent but have read that it has been criticized that a Japanese actor stars as Temudjin. The accents of the actors seem to be painful to Mongolian ears as well. I even read that some actors spoke Mandarin Chinese which was not yet spoken at the time... I don't speak any of those languages therefore I was not bothered.

I think this is a very special, aesthetic, riveting movie and I am not surprised it was nominated for an Oscar and won many prizes.

L'Armee des ombres (Army in the Shadows) (Army of Shadows) [DVD] [1969]
L'Armee des ombres (Army in the Shadows) (Army of Shadows) [DVD] [1969]
Dvd ~ Lino Ventura

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Movie on French Resistance, 7 Aug. 2010
If you are really interested in the topic of French Resistance there is no escaping this movie. If you are truly interested in film there is no escaping this movie either. Especially not since there has been a recent wave of Resistance movies (Les femmes de l'ombre (Female Agents), L'armée du Crime ( The Army of Crime), Flame and Citron, Black Book, Winter in Wartime, Max Manus) and it is always good to see where they come from, what influences they had.

Jean-Pierre Melvilles's L'armée des ombres aka The Army of Shadows (or in the Shadows) is a classic and a work of art.

It is beautiful like a foggy autumn evening, like the solitary cawing of a crow, like bare branches of a tree in winter, like the bluish colour of an early nightfall, like bitter sweet music and coffee drunk at midnight in an empty bar. (Would I have to compare it to a contemporary movie, I think I would choose Shutter Island. The movie as a whole and particularly the sad song during the end credits, Dinah Washington's Bitter Earth blended with Max Richter's On the Nature of Daylight, has a similar dense atmospheric quality.)

Gerbier (Lino Ventura) is captured by the Gestapo early in the movie. He manages to escape but knows he has been betrayed. Only one of his own could have told the Gestapo where this overly careful man was hiding.

Gerbier is head of a Resistance cell that operates between Paris, London, Lyon and Marseille. They always on the look out for people they can trust. They must always be careful, they could be betrayed anytime. They are hunted and on the run continuously. When they are caught by the Germans or the collaborators, they will be tortured mercilessly as the film shows drastically. But the group will risk everything to save one of their own.

The cell kills traitors as well as people who become too risky. No matter how much they helped them in the past, no matter how much they like them. The group ultimately lives and dies for the cause.

Lino Ventura and Simone Signoret are fabulous in this movie. It is a pleasure to watch such assured actors.

A feeling of abandonment and utter loneliness pervades the whole film. It seems to illustrate the existentialist angst of the times. Melancholy in its purest form.

What impressed me most was the sound. No effects like we know them nowadays but so artfully and sparingly used noises and sounds and just a little bit of music. The rain in the beginning, echoing footsteps in empty streets, the ticking of a pendulum in a room, the distant cry of birds.

It is quite a sad movie and I would not recommend you watch it should you feel very blue. It would not cheer you up. But on days when you feel balanced enough you will admire these brave people and suffer with them when they find out one of them is being tortured but won't speak, not even when he knows he is going to die.

And, please remember, this is a true story.

The Admiral [DVD] [2008]
The Admiral [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Konstantin Khabensky
Offered by videosanddvds
Price: £1.55

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Russian Master & Commander rather Anna Karenina meets Titanic, 7 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: The Admiral [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Once you recover from the surprise that the naval combat scenes will not last longer than 10 minutes you might quite enjoy this sumptuous movie. I recently watched Anna Karenina again (the one with Sophie Marceau) and must say that's where this movie comes from. The shattered glass in the beginning parallels the train accident in Anna Karenina etc. What we see is in part a movie on WWI but foremost a story of the Russian Revolution and an adulterous love story (quite a common theme in Russian literature). But I was also reminded of Titanic. It is a beautifully filmed historical movie with a lot of Russian pathos. Really watchable.

Bloody Sunday [DVD]
Bloody Sunday [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Nesbitt
Price: £8.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bloody Sunday or The Day Innocence Died, 24 July 2010
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This review is from: Bloody Sunday [DVD] (DVD)
On January 30 1972 the British army opened fire on a peaceful Civil Rights March in the city of Londonderry in Northern Ireland. On this day 27 people were shot and 13 of them lost their lives. A further victim died a few months later. This day was from then on called Bloody Sunday. It was a huge blow to the Civil Rights Movement and ended in countless young men entering the IRA. What followed is a history of bloodshed and terrorism that would not end until the 90's.

On June 15 2010, after an investigation of 12 years had been conducted and found that the British army had opened fire without a reason, the British Prime Minister Cameron apologized for this crime.

The so-called Saville Report has cost 230 million Euro. It proved without any doubt that the soldiers were at no time shot at. They opened fire on people who tried to flee, take refuge or wanted to help others. Two thirds of the victims were only 17 years old.

When this movie was shot, although largely known, there was no actual evidence as to the truth of these facts. We know them now and thus the movie unfurls vividly before the spectators eyes the whole extent of this tragedy.

Bloody Sunday is not easy to watch and the first two thirds were so annoying that I was tempted to stop it. This is solely due to the technique. It is filmed documentary style with a shaky hand-held camera. We see three complementary points of view. The Civil Rights Movement's, the Police Headquarter's and The Army Company's stationed in the street. The camera fades to black for every scene. During the bits at the Police Headquarters there is a constant ringing of telephones that drove me almost mad. Also at the Civil Rights Movement's Head Quarters, just before they assemble on the street, phones keep on ringing. The movie basically shows the whole day from early morning until its bloody end. We see the people prepare for the march, the police debating at what point they should stop the march and the soldiers on the street taking position.

It is worthwhile to sit through these annoyances though. The last third, when the march turns into a tragedy, is extremely powerful and the documentary style filming adds to the realism to an almost unbearable extent. What we watch is such a tragedy that we can barely believe it. To shoot at people who shout for help or try to help others looks like an execution.

Saying all this I think the movie shows nevertheless, no matter how misguided the army was or how brutal their reaction, that they were also under a lot of stress. Some of their own had been killed a few days before, they were constantly attacked, bottles thrown at them.

As so very often it is shown that those on the street (very much like those on the battle field) depend on their command in the Head Quarters who failed them completely. They misjudged everything, thought that sheer force would end it all and boy were they wrong. And, as always, they never pay a price in lives.

At the end of the movie there is a scene when every single victim is named. Every individual anonymous victim seems to become a face.

When watching the end I was surprised at how much this movie got to me.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2013 1:25 PM GMT

The Downfall Of Berlin - Anonyma [DVD] [2008]
The Downfall Of Berlin - Anonyma [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Max Farberbock
Price: £9.95

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rape and Love among Ruins, 22 July 2010
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I am surprised that no one in the previous reviews took offence at the fact that the film was in large parts a love story that does not exist in the book.I did personally like this love story a great deal even though I normally do not like it when grim facts are sugar coated by romance. But as a matter of fact this is a very realistic love story. Not very sugary at all and even though not in the book I think it manages to express something that could have happened.
The movie has actually two parts, before and after the end of the war.
The beginning shows the taking over of Berlin by the Russian army and the horrible mass rape that was soon every woman's daily reality. The second half is dedicated to the love story and the home coming of Anonyma's husband.
Anonyma is a very fine movie, especially since it is in large parts bilingual German/Russian. The Russian cast is absolutely great. I was not too thrilled by the German actors (one reason to deduce one point. Apart from Nina Hoss they are a bit overdramatic at times.
The shocking story of mass rape is told in a very convincing manner. Evident but not voyeuristic. Without being too explicit we know what is going on.
I consider this to be an important movie as it shows how much the Germans suffered as well.
From reding German reviews on this movie I see that to this day the feeling of guilt runs so deep in the Germans that they still feel uneasy to mourn these events.

Katyn [DVD] [2007]
Katyn [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Artur Zmijewski
Price: £6.40

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Crime and the Lie about a Gruesome Massacre on Polish Officers, 12 July 2010
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This review is from: Katyn [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
This is an outstanding movie. Truly outstanding from every possible point of view. Narrative style, cinematography, actors, story, technical aspects. Absolutely great.

The Polish movie Katyn is about the massacre of some 22000 Polish officers by the Russian army and the subsequent disposal of their bodies in the Katyn forest in 1940. Once the mass grave is found in 1943 the so-called Katyn list is established. After having waited anxiously for the return of their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers the families are now informed if or if not their loved ones have been among the victims. However not all the victims are on the list. Many more a still missing and may or may not have been murdered. Many wives still wait for their husbands in 1945.

The movie focuses on two families. One is the family of a Polish General, the other the family of a Polish officer. The story is told in two sequences. The first half tells the story until the massacre, the second tells the story of the lie and ends again with the massacre but this time shown much more explicitly (The way these murders were executed...How can people do this to people?). After the first half we think the story should be over but in reality it only just begins. Seeing it first from the point of view of the victims, we are then guided towards the point of view of the families who wait for them. Their ordeal is a different but very cruel one. Even though everybody knows who killed those officers, officially it is said to have been a massacre committed by the Germans. To say otherwise would be very dangerous. The political climate of the time that made it impossible to even mention a critical view of this incident until 1989 is palpable in all its atrocity.

On my DVD of this movie is an interview with the Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda. He tells the interviewer how difficult it was to make this movie. He didn't know how to tell the story. Should he tell his father's story, who had been among those officers, or his mother's who was one of those who did not give up hope until 1945. He decided eventually to tell both stories, juxtapose them, have one mirror the other. This is very skillfully done. Wajda belongs to the so-called Polish Film School and has made many movies, two of his better known earlier ones also deal with WWII: A Generation aka Pokolenie (1955) and Kanal (1957) about the Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.

This film is truly the work of a master, of someone who does not just deliver a story but who weaves it carefully, adding symbolism and criticism alike. And still it is highly watchable.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 4, 2012 9:29 PM BST

Kokoda - 39th Battalion [DVD]
Kokoda - 39th Battalion [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Finsterer
Price: £2.95

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kokoda, 39th Battalion or The Australians' Fight in the Pacific, 10 July 2010
Kokoda 39th Battalion is an Australian movie by Alister Grierson and tells another story that took place in the Pacific during WWII. Only this time we don't watch Americans fight for the Australians (as they do, amongst oher things, in the miniseries The Pacific), but the Australians themselves. The Kokoda trail on Papua New Guinea is the main trail that leads directly to Port Moresby. By means of this trail the Japanese were planning to arrive at Port Moresby and from there an invasion of Australia would have been easy.

Obviously the Australians did everything to prevent this. The 39th battalion who is in the center of this movie was essentially a battalion of untrained volunteers. The central story focuses on two brothers who joined this battalion together.

The opening of the movie shows us a sequence of still lives that are very beautiful. Pictures of fauna and flora of the island. After that we see what has to be interpreted as premonition like dream of Jack, one of the two brothers. This is somewhat an exaggeration of what the terrain was like. Same as in episode 4 of The Pacific there is a constant rain, and the terrain gets muddier and muddier. Jack slips and is almost drowning in mud. In the end he looks like some almost amphibian prehistoric creature. Those first ten minutes make you believe you might watch a film like The Thin Red Line with a lot of flashback elements, daydreams but that is, as you soon realise, not the case. From that moment on Kokoda turns into Hamburger Hill, meaning heavy jungle infantry combat.

The men are surrounded by Japanese soldiers whose camouflage is so much more efficient than their own, whose fighting experience is outstanding, and whose cruelty, as the movie wants to make us believe, is beyond imagination.

This was one of the movies that made me think again and again: Why war? Why did that happen? Why did it have to happen. The efforts of the Australians seem so futile, that even though they won in the end, there is nothing noble in all this. It's just horrible and hard to watch.

I first thought that this was an average movie but the overall atmosphere is so intense, the desperate fight of these badly trained men is so well depicted that I think it's quite a good movie that I would recommend you'd watch. And, most important, the pictures of the dense forest and the instances of cruelty in the middle of the jungle aren't easily forgotten and stay in your mind long after you've watched it.

Yes, it's biased, the Japanese are shown as beastly monsters but still.

Furthermore it tells a quite soulful story of the deep bond between brothers.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2013 3:47 PM BST

The Red Baron [Blu-ray] [2008]
The Red Baron [Blu-ray] [2008]
Dvd ~ Tomás Koutník
Price: £9.70

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars German and English versions are totally different, 30 Jun. 2010
I do agree with a previous review: This is a guilty pleasure. In Germany the movie got mostly bad reviews. It was said that the Red Baron's portrait was much too positive. British viewers are much kinder. I saw the German original but now watching this trailer here I realise that the two versions are totally different. The whole hunter, sport, fun aspect is much more emphasized in the English version. Odd but interesting. Anyway, from a cinematographic point of view it's a great movie.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2014 8:18 AM GMT

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