Archives for the month of: May, 2017

MV5BYWFlY2E3ODQtZWNiNi00ZGU4LTkzNWEtZTQ2ZTViMWRhYjIzL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyODkwOQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_We begin in a boy’s youth, as his grandfather teaches him to shoot wolves. He hesitates, and the wolf disembowels their horse.

We then launch in medias res, as Soviet recruits are ferried across the Volga to fight the Nazis in what you can already say is the ruins of Stalingrad. Vassily Zaitsev (Jude Law) is among them. He is the boy of the earlier incident, but he is not one of the lucky few to be given a rifle before being sent into the hell between the German guns and those that ensure he will not retreat. Vassily starts out with a convincing expression of terrified panic on his face, but somehow Mr. Law manages to escalate as the film goes on.

After that first abortive offensive, Vassily is avoiding the Nazi mopping-up by hiding in a fountain full of corpses. There he is joined by the young political officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), whose car has just blown up, whose glasses are broken, whose competence with a gun is merely nominal, and who is generally having a really bad case of the Mondays. He fumbles with a rifle he finds until Vassily takes it from him and rapidly kills every Nazi he can see. Danilov, in true Soviet style, makes Vassily into a Hero of the Motherland, with a new fancy sniper rifle, fanmail, and slightly exaggerated rustic bona fides. They become fast friends, but Danilov also sells the heroism to a young(ish) Nikita Khrushchev (Bob Hoskins).

Two complications emerge. The first is a beautiful woman, Tania Chernova (Rachel Weisz), who can both read German and shoot, and thus bounces back and forth awkwardly between Danilov’s staff and Vassily’s band of miracle-workers. The second is a Nazi sniper, a Major König (Ed Harris), who has come all the way from Berlin to kill Vassily.

It doesn’t seem as though many saw this film, perhaps because in early 2001 it was still fashionable to imagine that we had solved the problem of war. It was particularly unpalatable at the time to consider a war in which neither side was hunky freedom-loving good guys. To be sure, Enemy at the Gates never for a moment questions that the Nazis must be stopped, but it also pulls no punches about the miseries of Soviet life–the wolf has already taken everything you love, the film tells you, but you must continue to fight.

Overlooking this movie, however, was a collective failure in judgement, because it’s rather good. It is affecting without being emotionally manipulative, unlike the vast majority of WWII movies. Everyone, particularly Hoskins and Harris, is well cast; it is difficult to believe that Ed Harris has only played a Nazi officer in one other film, as far as I can tell. You want to like Fiennes, but political officers are necessarily squirrelly. Weisz and Law are impossibly beautiful, and impossibly young, but they are carefully encrusted in dirt, so it isn’t jarring. They joke adorably about how Vassily’s crisp new uniform will probably be taken back directly after a photo-op.

Heads up, though, an entirely plausible number of people die.

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Rating: R
Length: 131 minutes
Score: 4/5

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“Spunky, badly-dressed woman teaches well-heeled man how to feel” is my least favorite genre of film, because for some reason I’m not sure it’s better to run roughshod over other people’s lives even if you do it with a smile and dumb tights.

This one is even worse than usual.

In a MV5BMTQ2NjE4NDE2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTcwNDE5NzE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_twist of fate, posh banker Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) wisely doesn’t take his motorcycle to work in the rain, and is hit by someone else and paralyzed. He moves back in with his parents in a tiny town, and of course his girlfriend leaves him for his best friend. He lets himself get scruffy and gets his kicks by doing a “My Left Foot” bit to unsuspecting strangers. You suspect he may have been kind of a douche all along.

His mother Camilla (Janet McTeer) is at her wits’ end, and hires as a companion a local young woman, Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke). She has just lost her job in a café, where she is relentlessly sweet to the little old ladies who eat there. Her family is short on money, but she has an inexhaustible supply of perfectly coordinated, whimsically bright outfits, including innumerably flashy pairs of Mary Janes. Naturally, despite her humble background and her father’s unemployment and her sister’s single motherhood, she approaches all problems with boundless, uncomprehending optimism. Her boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis, of Neville Longbottom + puberty = surprise fame) is a runner, and cartoonishly dense, of course.

Well, you know how this goes. Will’s parents (Charles Dance is his father) don’t know how to cope with their son’s pain and despair, because they’re rich and don’t know how to love, and are willing to take him to Dignitas after a period of adjustment. Lou, though–she and her good attitude can work wonders! Between that blind glee and the broad shoulders of the Australian physio Nate (Stephen Peacocke), they paint the town red. They even go to the ex-girlfriend’s wedding together, and have a great time. Joanna Lumley is there, for thirty seconds.

But here’s the kicker: even working-class sincerity and butterfly hair clips might not cure paraplegia. And it’s really not appealing to watch Lou lecture Will about how selfish he is when she refuses to listen to him, ever. It’s gross, in fact.

Also: women? You can have a personality and even be generous and caring while still having a grasp of reality and maybe owning a grey dress or a black pair of shoes.

Director: Thea Sharrock
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes
Score: 1/5

Somehow I made it through middle school without reading S. E. Hinton’s novel. I think it was pure contrariety. Other people liked it, so I refused to.

ButMV5BY2E4Njk4N2UtZWFhOS00NzczLWFmNDgtMzdhMjFlNTZjMmVhL2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_ also I suspect it is not very good, because this movie is insane. It’s the fifties, presumably, and somewhere in the ass end of nowhere, America, there are rich kids in khakis and poor kids in jeans and they hate each other and have dumb gang names. Accidents happen, children get trapped in a fire, Matt Dillon dies for reasons I’m not sure of. Apparently Hinton wrote the novel when she was sixteen; it shows.

The thing about this movie is that everyone is in it, and somehow few of them have aged. A friend suggested that they all joined a vampire cult, and, frankly, it is really hard to believe that Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe, especially, are 35 years older than they were when they made it.

Also everyone is shirtless all the time.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Rating: PG
Length: 91 minutes
Score: Unrateable