Hacksaw Ridge


Viewed – 30 May 2017  online-rental

It would be easy to be a little bit cynical about ‘another war movie’ after how many we’ve had over the years, and comparisons with some of the greats are inevitable.  However this based on a true story drama at least has an interesting perspective of one such time in the second world war.  Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a pacifist war objector and medic who refuses to carry a weapon despite being part the battle of Okinawa … and becomes a hero when he saves the lives of more than 70 soldiers during a brutal siege against the Japanese. 

Hacksaw-Ridge

Director Mel Gibson’s movie for me began familiar…Desmond leaves his sweetheart to join the army, his drunk father is against him signing up, and we also get a shouty drill instructor played by Vince Vaughn doing his best R Lee Ermy impression.  So initially I was thinking this was just going to be a re-tread of say Full Metal Jacket or Saving Private Ryan.  Thankfully though with the focus on Desmond this became more than simple war movie cliché and actually an enthralling story of one man’s fight to stand by his beliefs whilst still managing to make a difference.  The war scenes that come fairly late on are unashamedly brutal yet visceral showing that Gibson has lost none of his flair for gruesome battles that he showcased so well in Braveheart.  Also add to this that the movie has some interesting, humbling character arcs, such as certain characters starting out unlikeable and then becoming someone I cared about etc.  Also I was glad to see that the otherwise ruthless Japanese army were not painted entirely one dimensional, with a few welcome moments showing soldiers scared or not entirely wanting to be a part of what they were involved in.  It made for a well rounded and well written account of a what must have been a horrific time in history. 

I was left a little puzzled by where Desmond’s elder brother disappeared to considering he signed up to join the army before Desmond but then the movie forgot about him.  Just an observation.  However, Garfield not exactly an actor I’ve ever warmed to, who was miscast in Spiderman is thankfully a revelation here, convincing and probably a career best from him … helped by several solid supporting turns. 

Simply put – a must see.

Verdict:  5 /5

Scenes that make the movie


I’ve been thinking about this idea for a post.  Ten memorable scenes from some of my favourite movies of all time, or simply great moments that make a particular movie going experience stick in my head.  This may become a continuing series as I recall other great moments…but for now, here are ten stand out moments from great movies:  Minor spoilers.

Akira

Teddy bears & hallucinations.

Akira Gif

As a telepathic Kaneda post-brush with an infected child of the Akira experiment, recovers in hospital, he begins to experience terrifying hallucinations where teddy bears and toys comes to life as his powers start to manifest in horrifying ways.  One of the defining moments of this complex and ground-breaking Anime.

An America Werewolf In London

Stick to the road

AAWIL Moores

Two back packers after stumbling into local watering hole The Slaughtered Lamb are ushered back out into the night, with simply the warning of ‘stay on the road, keep clear of the moores’ – which they subsequently ignore and are soon stalked by a blood thirsty werewolf in John Landis’ still superb 1984 horror classic.

Blue Velvet

In Dreams

Blue Dean

Amateur detective Kyle MacLachlan gets a little too close to nut-job mobster Dennis Hopper who takes him for a visit to his cross-dressing neighbourhood friend Dean Stockwell, who lip-syncs to Roy Orbinson’s timeless classic in possibly one of David Lynch’s most freaky and brilliant scenes.

Boogie Nights

Disco montage

Boogie Nights

As former nobody Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) rises to infamy in the seventies porn movie industry, we are treated to this fabulous disco montage, cut seamlessly with various shots of Dirk ‘in action’ or receiving awards and culminating in a wonderfully choreographed dance number with fellow stars Reed Rothchild (John C Reilly) and Roller-girl (Heather Graham).

Eyes Wide Shut

The secret sex party

eyes wide shut

Only in a Stanley Kubrick movie can a high society sex orgy come across as creepy and surreal.  The master film maker in probably his most misunderstood work, presents the viewer with a secret society that Tom Cruise manages to sneak inside of and witness the debauchery of most-likely high profile dignitaries with various high class call girls.  All to a haunting, incredibly eerie score.

Goodfellas

Paranoia, drugs and guns

goodfellas paranoid

In the final act of the movie an increasingly paranoid Ray Liotta, struggles to juggle family responsibilities with fencing guns for Robert DeNiro and avoiding what he thinks is an FBI helicopter during the day from hell.  Expertly edited for maximum tension and intensity by the grand master Martin Scorsese.

Monsters Inc.

A chase through the doors

monsters-inc

After discovering the main villain’s evil scheme, Billy Crystal’s motor-mouthed Mike and John Goodman’s lovable Sully are chased by Steve Buscemi’s dastardly Randall into the inner workings of the Monsters Inc. facility and through a plethora of doors into the human world.  Exciting, inventive and visually stunning.

Pulp Fiction

Jack Rabbit Slims

pulp gif

In a mob movie with pop-culture quoting wise guys and a soundtrack to die for, who’d have thought one of the best scenes would be a night out between John Travolta’s mob hitman and gangsters-mol Uma Thurman?  Culminating in the world famous Twist Contest.  Sharp dialogue, a highly memorable setting, and an after-math that segway’s into probably the other best scene in this movie.

Saving Private Ryan

Omaha Beach Landing

After visiting the final resting place of hundreds of soldiers, an elderly veteran recalls his experience with tears in his eyes – switch to the shocking beach onslaught in Omaha in 1944 as thousands of troops fight against impossible odds.  A stunning opening to one of the greatest WWII movies ever made, with star (Tom Hanks) and director (Steven Spielberg) on blistering form.

Trainspotting

Clubbing to Blondie.

transpotting

Taking a break from ripping people off and doing drugs, Ewan McGregor’s Renton finds himself on a night out with friends, hitting the clubs and listening to Heaven 17 and Blondie (or Sleeper doing a marvellous version of Atomic), where he meets Diane (Kelly MacDonald) and leads to a montage of sex, alcohol and pulse-pounding music in Danny Boyle’s break-out gem.

Do you agree with my list?  Have favourite scenes of your own?  Leave your comments below or link to your own lists…

Fury


Viewed – 10 March 2015  Blu-ray

In the final days of World War II a grizzled Tank squad (headed by Brad Pitt) journey through Germany on a routine mission to hit the Nazis where it hurts … until disaster strikes.

fury.jpg

Considering the plethora of WWII movies that have been made, I still managed to find this an interesting take on the age old band-of-brothers concept with the inclusion of the tank battles and the trapped behind enemy lines plotting.  It wears it’s clichés with pride, with the usual characters like the rookie, the grizzled war vet and the psycho, but mostly failed to inject them with a personality that even Pitt couldn’t deliver in a fairly one-note turn.  Even the casting of Shia LaBeouf seemed fairly pointless.

However, I liked how the movie became about more than just Pitt doing his thing and the layered performance of a wet-behind-the-ears Norman (Logan Lerman) saved this from being another also-ran.  The movie has some good action and gets fairly gory as the bodies pile up, with the final act being as intense as it gets.  With classics like Saving Private Ryan to think about when watching this, it lacks the depth or the performances and struggles with pacing (that scene in the house … yawn), but overall, it was still pretty decent.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Monuments Men


Viewed – 26 July 2014 pay-per-view

On initially seeing the trailer to this true story set in WWII, the casting of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchet made me eager to see it.  I missed it at the cinema but immediately took the opportunity when it arrived for online rental.  Clooney who also directs is a soldier and professor who puts together a band of art historians and curators to journey into occupied France and Germany on a mission to take back stolen works of art.

monuments men_edited

Blanchet plays a woman who works for the German army but is secretly in league with the resistance who stumbles upon the Germans stealing priceless paintings as the war draws to a close.  Historically this was fascinating and the fact Hitler was after this art is quite eye-opening, and made me want to read up on more of what was going on back then.  Performance-wise this has an impressive roster of faces, although I found only Clooney and Blanchet stood out (her French accent is very good, and Clooney deliver’s emotional speeches brilliantly).  So what was the likes of Murray and Goodman doing here?  Of course I’m not expecting a comedy, but their presence just felt wasted, as neither got what you might call time in the spotlight. This was also a film of padding, with a few scenes just there and not really adding a great deal to the narrative (the smoking scene…).

On a plus this is a great looking movie.  Production is top-notch recreating the era convincingly and the set design and cinematography are both impressive.  The flirty pairing of Blanchet and Matt Damon was also interesting.  For a gentler take on events in WWII this was engrossing and at times quite moving.  I was left wishing there had been more danger and tension, but for the most part this was still good entertainment.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Captain America: The First Avenger


Viewed – 05 October 2012  Blu-ray

There was a time when I really didn’t think the newly formed Marvel Studios would pull it off.  A grand concept, 4 origin stories, leading to a big ensemble smack down with this year’s highly entertaining Avengers Assemble.  Yet I have to give it where it’s due, until now in  my opinion these have all been polished and well made movies … with this being no exception.

Set during World War II, a wimpy but gutsy guy (Chris Evans) dreams of joining the army and following in the footsteps of his soldier friend.  Yet being small and skinny, he continually fails every medical, and soon begins to believe he’ll never get to fight for his country.  That is until a scientist (Stanley Tucci) see’s potential and signs him up, leading to him becoming the first human test subject for an experimental formula that apparently creates super soldiers.  At the same time a power-hungry Nazi meglomaniac dreams of conquering the world, and as you can imagine – it’s going to take that exact super solider to save the day.  Step forward Captain America!

This wasn’t the Captain America I remember.  Wasn’t he something to do with American Football?  But this follows the early comics of the character more closely and makes for a fun, often amusing and very slick action thriller.  Chris Evans like in The Avengers, made for a more complex, conflicted ‘hero’ than some of his contemporaries, and in this zero to hero story carries the film well (with quite incredible skinny guy effect).  Hugo Weaving is on hand as villain The Red Skull, and always makes for a great boo-hiss baddie (see: The Matrix Trilogy), and along with decent support from Tommy Lee Jones and the aforementioned Mr Tucci this is a movie that’s very difficult not to enjoy.  Special effects, action sequences and story are all delivered with style and energy.  For an origin story it makes for absorbing if lightweight material, with more of a glossy, propaganda themed image of the war than how it really was (think 1940’s comics), and some of the earlier Captain America poster-boy stuff seemed to mock the character, sitting uneasily alongside all the cool action and drama.

Still this was easy viewing and made for my preferred origin tale of the saga.

Verdict:  4 /5