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WW2 - World War II
^ *Sharp intake of breath* Controversial Wink.

I can recommend 'The Cruel Sea' set aboard a U-Boat destroyer, especially if you like 'Das Boot' as it's very much the same sort of pressure-cooker feel but from their opponents perspective.

(03-08-2018, 03:46 PM)Neglify Wrote: Has anybody brought up U-571 yet? That shit was awesome.

I enjoyed it when it came out, but haven't seen it since, and I'm not at all a McConaughey fan. Funny how all the Enigma machine-related movies are controversial in some way... U-571 for glorifying Yanks at the expense of the Brits, Enigma for not mentioning Turing and making a Pole the villain, and The Imitation Game for being f***ing awful. Tongue

Black Book (2006)

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Noel Murray, The AV Club: "Black Book may be one of the most fun movies ever made about how people basically suck." Indeed. Inglourious Basterds fans will likely enjoy this ludicrous, yet ludicrously entertaining, Paul Verhoeven pulp epic about a Jewish woman in occupied Netherlands who goes through multiple stages of hell, yet never gives up. Features at least three actors from Valkyrie: star Carice van Houten, and villains Waldemar Kobus and Christian Berkel. With a cameo from... hey, I know that painting...

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It's that one Vernet from The Mummy Returns!

Anyhow, the film's a heck of a ride. B+
Dad's Army (2016)

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As Mr. Cinema has observed, this trifle (based on a TV series I've never seen) is... not great. I only laughed five times, so it fails Dr. Kermode's six-laugh comedy test, and from the looks of its Metacritic page, I'm kinder to it than most. (Indeed, that first laugh didn't come until a good forty or so minutes in.)

That said, I'm sure the feature would make for a charming Movie Night at the local retirement home. I award these dads a C+, with the plus acknowledging that it's hard to get too little enjoyment from a Bill Nighy flick.
The Tuskegee Airmen (1995)

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As with Into the Storm, it's easy to imagine this subject matter and cast making for an amazing miniseries. The actual HBO TV movie about some of the first African American military combat pilots, however, is merely decent. The cast is solid, and Laurence Fishburne is terrific, but we don't get a great sense of the characters as individuals. Impressive aerial photography of classic planes is skillfully mixed with historical combat footage. And I at first thought that, at 70, Rosemary Murphy was rather old to be playing Eleanor Roosevelt, but the First Lady would have been about 60 at the time. (Compare this to Hyde Park on Hudson's Olivia Williams, who played her at only two or three years younger at the age of 44.) And no, I'm not going to mention George Lucas' Red Tails here, even if Cuba Gooding Jr. appeared in both. Tongue Grade: B
The Gathering Storm (2002)

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Yep, that's Loki himself as Mr. Churchill... well, one of them, at least. Albert Finney plays Winston, with Vanessa Redgrave as Clemmie, in this 90-minute tour of his "Wilderness Years" in Parliament (but out of power) in the 30s. If Into the Storm, the belated sequel (with an entirely different cast) feels like something of a highlight reel of a Churchill miniseries, The Gathering Storm feels like a pilot episode - well-made and engaging, but vexingly incomplete. (This, Darkest Hour, and Into the Storm do make for a a solid if unofficial movie trilogy en lieu of a proper WW2 Churchill miniseries, though.) Linus Roache is terrific in a key role, and Lena Headey, Tom Wilkinson, and Derek Jakobi show up also. As I've written before, no offense to Brendan Gleeson and Janet McTeer, but I do wish Finney and Redgrave had returned for Into the Storm, with Kenneth Branagh reprising his FDR from Warm Springs, but, oh well. A B+ for solid if not revelatory work.
The Lady Vanishes (1938)

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Unlike its very similar younger sibling, Carold Reed's Night Train to Munich (1940) - even the heroine is the same actress - the 1938 Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes was made before the outbreak of war, so the setting is Ruritania rather than Germany, and there are no explicit references to the Nazis (obvious stand-ins appear instead), but this is still very much a WW2 film. It's got more gags, several of them outright goofy, than Night Train, and its action climax is both less visually engaging and hard not to chuckle at today, with its stagey blocking and banging-on-pots gunshot sound effects. Charters and Caldicott also have more screen time than they do in Night Train, though they'll have even more in their "solo" flick, 1941's Crook's Tour. Anyhow, I think I prefer Night Train, but I might have to see it again to be sure. The Lady Vanishes, which takes a while to get going, and whose plot is a bit too tangled for its own good, merits a B.
Crook's Tour (1941)

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After very nearly stealing the show in both 1938's The Lady Vanishes and 1940's Night Train to Munich, cricket devotees and altogether respectable gentlemen Charters and Caldicott took leading roles in Crook's Tour, their only such feature, though actors Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford would also star in 1949's It's Not Cricket as a similar duo. Charters and Caldicott, meanwhile, would make one more official appearance in 1943's Millions Like Us before Wayne and Radford continued the act as a run of nominally different characters until Radford's death in '52. (Got all that? Good - there'll be a quiz later.)

Though only 80 minutes long, Crook's Tour takes nearly twenty minutes to get going, with much time wasted on a pointless and dull introduction in the Iraqi desert which seems to serve little purpose beyond perhaps reminding audiences that even Arab tribal leaders can be British-educated cricket aficionados. When the duo is finally mistaken for a pair of Axis spies, via the low-key humorous coincidence of ordering a secret three particular items at a restaurant, things finally start to pick up a bit, though there's nearly no real action apart from our heroes harrumphing their way through various deadly predicaments and mild inconveniences - the joke being, of course, that they invariably react to both with the exact same mild exasperation. By the end, I was thoroughly charmed by the whole thing. A low-key, off-the-beaten path pleasure for musty Anglophiles such as myself. Grade: B.
A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958)
Looks amazing on blu-ray, grainy rich CinemaScope images, grim and desaturated not through digital filters but by designing the film that way. A German soldier gets a 3-week break from the hellish Russian front and returns to his home town to find it's also a bomb shattered ruin. The film title sums it up, or basically "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die". The script is so well written and constructed, with lines sticking in the mind and foreshadowing later events. Clearly filmed in (then) still bombed out areas of Germany, this allows them to have the actors running through huge vistas of rumble, while fullsize buildings explode all around them:

Almost the entire cast of varied characters is brilliantly played. All of them attempting to ignore the spectre of death in their own way. The problem is that the one person not giving a stellar performance is the lead actor John Gavin, who is in every scene. He's not actively bad but I found him bland and limited. I also found the score overbearing at times. Such a shame, almost a masterpiece.

^ Interesting; never heard of that one.

The Good German (2006)

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A Steven Soderbergh homage to Hitchcock, Casablanca, and classic film noir in general, set in and around the July 1945 Potsdam Conference where Truman, Stalin, and Churchill negotiated the European peace as Japan fought on. George Clooney arrives in Berlin as a journalist with an Army commission, searching for his pre-war flame (Cate Blanchett), who happens to be entangled with his slimy driver (Tobey Maguire). This leads to an entanglement with Operation Overcast (later called Operation Paperclip), in which German rocket scientists with dirt - or worse - on their hands were rehabilitated as American citizens in order to win the incipient arms race against the Soviets. (Marvel fans may recognize Paperclip as the program which allowed Arnim Zola to infiltrate SHIELD in the backstory to The Winter Soldier.)

The movie was a box office flop and critical disappointment, and hasn't been released on blu. Worse, the DVD has no bonus features, which could have provided a fascinating look at how the crew used period cameras to shoot on color film (for greenscreen purposes) that was then finished in grayscale. Anyhow, I quite like the film, though it's no classic. Blanchett underplays her knockout/sexual goddess role; Kate Winslet, who was apparently considered for the part, might have made more sense in this regard, but this actually kind of works for the plot, if we're to regard Clooney's character as a man out of his depth rather than a figure to strongly identify with. An interesting experiment all around.

The Exception (2016)   (US Amazon Prime)

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Ludicrous but solid quasi-romantic/erotic drama very loosely based on real persons. When Hitler invades the Netherlands in May 1940, former emperor (and key WWI instigator) Wilhelm II finds himself in German lands once more. Might the time have finally come for his return to the throne and some degree of power? (With those goons in charge? Er... no.) A young, wounded, and honorable SS officer is sent to oversee the old man's security at his wooded villa, but there are rumors of an enemy spy lurking about. And, in a completely different plot thread, why do you ask?, there's a new housemaid on the site.

He may have been the worst Kyle Reese imaginable, but Jai Courtney is fine as the German officer, Christopher Plummer is suspiciously likable as Wilhelm, and Janet McTeer, who memorably played Clemmie Churchill in Into the Storm, is first-rate as his wife. But the key attraction here is the astoundingly beautiful and excellent actress Lily James (also of Darkest Hour), around whom the movie rightly revolves:

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Grade: B. An odd but entertaining sequel featuring the villain of the WWI countdown film 37 Days, decades later.
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