Posts tagged “Second World War

Red Tails / Another Childhood Obsession


Red Tails  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK ReleaseAcademy Award Winner Cuba Gooding Jr. and Academy Award Nominee Terrence Howard lead a powerful ensemble cast in this high-flying epic inspired by the real-life adventures of the first African-American combat unit to serve in World War II.  Italy, 1944.  As the war takes its toll on Allied forces in Europe, a squadron of black pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen are finally given the chance to prove themselves in the sky… even as they battle discrimination on the ground.  Featuring jaw-dropping aerial action and thrilling special effects, Red Tails is a breathtaking tribute to the unsung heroes who rose above extraordinary challenges and ultimately soared into history.

2012  –  Certificate 12  –  American Film
Rating Details: Moderate war violence
8.5 out of 10

When I was young I was kind of obsessed with aeroplanes.  In particular, those used during the Second World War.  I used to read as much as I could about them, make and paint models of them to hang from my bedroom ceiling, and see them in museums and shows whenever I could.  I knew EVERYTHING there was to know about them.  I also used to buy as many copies of the Commando war comics as I could, (just the ones featuring WW2 aircraft, although I did occasionally stoop to reading stories set during WW1 or about gliders).  In these, I discovered how the brave, British Tommy basically won WW2 on his own, all the Germans were called Fritz or Hans and all they ever seemed to say was “Gott im Himmel!” or “mein gott!”, as an RAF Spitfire or Hurricane blasted to pieces whatever bit of German engineering the unfortunate Hans and Fritz happened to be in at the time.  (I think the Italians fared even worse, as they always seemed to be presented as either cowards or traitors.)  A few stories were set in Asia or North Africa, but most featured Europe.  Despite all this, I like to think I’ve grown up with a fairly balanced view of Germans and history.  In fact I had a lovely German girlfriend for many years, until she saw sense and left me.  (Somewhat ironically, the printing of the comics was moved to Germany last year.)  It’s many years since I threw them all away (and seeing the price some early copies now sell for, I wish I’d kept them), but my love of the aircraft has remained.  “The Battle of Britain” is one of my all-time favourite films.  Sadly, there aren’t a huge number of such films and there’s not exactly a lot being made these days, so I was quite excited when this one was released.  So were my childhood memories trashed by the Yanks?

This movie is two things.  Firstly, it’s a drama about the first American, Black fighter pilots in WW2 and the shockingly ignorant behaviour towards them by their own side.  It’s also an action film about brave, gung-ho heroes, blowing up loads of Nazi stuff.  Unfortunately the two things don’t quite go together.  Only someone wearing with a silly-looking, pointy white hat, (or possibly some Daily Mail readers or EDF morons) are not going to accept the point of the first element.  Although it provides a framework for everything else, this isn’t really looked into in enough depth to be totally satisfying.  If simply raising awareness of what went on was the point then this part was a success, (it was all new to me), but as a drama about what happened, it was a bit ‘empty’.  This brings us to the action side of things.  In many ways this film was a bit of an ego project for George Lucas, but given his background you’d hope it would be fun; and it is.  Nearly everything was created as computer graphics and watching it on Blu-ray they looked fab.  The dogfight sequences are worth watching for their own sake.  The film seems to have attracted a lot of criticism, but what did people expect?  It’s about as realistic as “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones”, but as a movie that bought the vibe of my Commando comics to life, it did good.  For a lot of the time I forgot that most of the characters were Black and just enjoyed the sight of our heroes blasting away at all manner of Nazi hardware and personnel; trains, fighter aces, airfields, destroyers and even the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet all get blown to bits.  The scrip is far from perfect and once or twice it felt more like I was watching Snoop Dogg rather than a 1940’s guy flying a plane; sometimes the characters seemed too modern.  After starting with two clichéd lines of dialogue that really should only been seen in a comic book frame, it did finally produce a couple of powerfully emotional scenes towards the end.  I loved it for what it is, but I can understand why it disappoints so many others.

The soundtrack is decent enough and it felt there’s an awful lot of it used.

The trailer is also decent enough, if a bit superficial.

Recommended for Second World War aircraft obsessives and war comic fans; not recommend for military historians, racists or ‘Lucas haters’.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Joe “Lightening” Little does two strafing runs over a Nazi destroyer in his P-51 Mustang.  The ship basically blows up.  That’s badass.  For that reason alone, we shouldn’t let a little something like military realism, the ‘law of averages’ or historical accuracy spoil the action.  That’s what the History Channel is for.

Red Tails at IMDB (5.9 / 10)
Red Tails at Wikipedia
Red Tails at Roger Ebert (2.5 / 5)
Red Tails at YouTube


The Philadelphia Experiment 2 / Marks & Spencer


The Philadelphia Experiment 2  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US ReleaseIn the hit sci-fi thriller “The Philadelphia Experiment” the sole survivor of a wartime experiment is catapulted 41 years into the future and must race to save the world as we know it.  It’s now 10 years later, 1993.  David Herdeg (Brad Johnson), the surviving hero, has built a life for himself and his young son that’s unravelling fast.  The U.S. military is conducting another Experiment, one that not only alters Herdeg’s DNA makeup, but also threatens the fabric of the entire universe.  The Experiment’s goal is to transport a Stealth Fighter back to 1943 to use as the ultimate war machine, but its effect hurls Herdeg into another time warp, still 1993, but a 1993 where Germany has won the war.  Can Herdeg win the race against time and save his son and the world from a terrible future?  Or will the future be a twisted reality distorted by the Philadelphia Experiment?

1993  –  Certificate: PG-13  –  American Film
Rating Details: Military violence
6.0 out of 10

Who actually shops in Marks and Spencer, unless they want a new bra or a pair of socks?  It’s like a John Lewis, except with all the interesting stuff removed.  For a start, it only sells a limited range of household things, none of which anyone would need; unless you feel owning a big, weirdly shaped glass jar full of ‘interestingly’ coloured marbles is essential.  Or a pastel coloured cushion with tassels on it rates as highly for you as food, shelter and safety.  Then there’s the Food Hall.  These huge caverns are full of food nobody really buys.  True, it’s all very nice and tasty looking, but it’s also all eye-wateringly expensive, pre-pealed, pre-prepared, over-packaged and marketed as over-valued ‘superfood’.  I don’t know why M&S doesn’t just take that find step and pre-digest it for you too and sell that instead.  In fact, just send it your money and save yourself from even having to bothering to do the shopping in the first place. The branch I went to, near Southampton, has its entrance 5m from a huge Sainsbury; why does an M&S Food Hall even exist there?  A small, plastic bowl-like container full of cherry tomatoes on the vine, asparagus tips and rocket, costs about a million pounds.  (Whatever happened to lumps of cucumber, lettuce and grated carrot?)  At the sort of prices it charges, I’d expect the rocket to be a fully functioning space shuttle, complete with crew.  Just before Christmas I won £500 of Marks and Spencer vouchers in a competition.  Unable to use them online, (and what’s the point of vouchers these days you can’t use online), I finally plucked up courage last week to go into an M&S store and use them.  It was a scary experience.  I had no idea how to behave.  I was convinced I’d get arrested for breaking some sort of social code of conduct, only known to people who have large jars of marbles in their bathrooms.  I was served by four people all at the same time, who insisted on wrapping everything up in millions of layers of paper to ‘protect’ it.  Do I look that clumsy?  What did they think I was going to do with it all?  I’m now the proud owner of the most expense set of pans it sells, two kitchen knives that actually cut, some glasses that match one another and a set of chopping boards that aren’t home to most of the world’s infectious diseases.  (And being the system-smashing rebel I am, I’m presently using the blue one that’s got the fish symbol on it, even though I don’t ever eat fish.)  I’ve also spent the last week or so living on strawberries, cherries, nectarines and ‘speciality’ apples.  My body thinks it’s been irrigated with bleach, such is the purity of my insides now.  I did manage to find some packets of pasta hiding away in the corner of the store, but the rice defied my best efforts to locate it anywhere.  This film is about someone who finds himself somewhere he’s not used to being.

The Philadelphia Experiment was an interesting, if horrendously dated-looking film that came out in 1984.  Nine years later we got the sequel.  In many ways this is a better film, although it still manages to look terrible dated.  It’s portrayal of an America 50 years after the Nazis won World War Two is really quite nicely presented. Very Orwellian.  I was interested to see that the concrete HQ ‘bunker’ that features in the film looks a lot like many of the new stations on the Jubilee Line in London.  The sight of a Nighthawk ‘stealth fighter’ decked out in swastikas makes a suitably big impression on the senses.  A few elements in the film reminded me of The Terminator too.  All the father-son-baseball nonsense at the beginning was a bit nauseating, but once we got past this it was a decent enough movie. Gerrit Graham puts in a good show as the slightly mad Dr. William Mailer.  Sadly, the sum of its parts is not up to its individual elements; it feels like a film that ought to be better than it actually is.

The soundtrack is a decent effort, with a mixture of what you’d expect, along with a bit of cowboy music and some suitably overwrought Richard Wagner.

Recommended for Nazis, slightly mad scientists, pilots and baseball fans.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  David kills Mailer’s father, which results in some time-based shenanigans and Mailer disappearing, thus solving a number of tricky challenges.  I often do something quite similar myself, which makes it badass.  I can never understand why people have to complicate life so much.  If you don’t like something, just go back in time and try again.  It’s not rocket science.

The Philadelphia Experiment at IMDB (4.4 / 10)

The Philadelphia Experiment at Wikipedia

The Philadelphia Experiment at YouTube


The Notebook: 4.0 Stars


The Notebook  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)I’m vegan.  This makes me better than most other people.  I’m not being big-headed or stupid or anything, that’s just the way things are.  (See “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” for more details.)  I’m lucky, in that the whole population of Cactus World is vegan, which makes things a lot easier.  However, the same can’t be said for some of the neighbouring areas.  My flat has a couple of air vents in it with built-in fans.  These appear to be connected to all the other vents in the building, via a series of pipes buried in the walls.   They’re the sort of vents you can use to ‘enjoy’ a ‘domestic’ going on next door.  If I lived in a Hollywood film in an old apartment in New York, I’m sure I’d regularly hear murders being committed through them, (which there’d mysteriously be no evidence for when the police arrived to investigate things); or perhaps a major terrorist attack (with a nuclear bomb of course) being planned.  I suppose I should be thankful that the vents are in the kitchen and bathroom, as they don’t seem to pick up the sound from other rooms of happy couples em, coupling.  So anyway, a little while ago I went to the aforementioned bathroom, to do some ‘bathroom things’.  As soon as I opened the lounge door, my senses were assaulted by the smell of cooked fish.  I doubt the world’s oceans smell as fishy as my flat right now.  Unfortunately, the vents transport smells as easily as they transfer sounds.  Four emergency incense cones have now been lit, in an effort to neutralise the insidious odour.  (High-powered ones obtained from the US military, through a special arrangement with the authorities in New Mexico.  They have “the fragrant aroma of smouldering Piñon firewood that is characteristic of the whole Southwest and the foothills of the Rockies.”)  We’ve yet to hear any announcements regarding whether this is a deliberate chemical weapons attack on Cactus World, the result of a massive industrial accident, or simply the outcome of dinner-time for one of my neighbours.  For a vegan however, it’s pretty crap; and annoying.  The last time my flat smelt this fishy was the day I first came to see it prior to moving in.  This was later determined to be a deliberate ploy by the previous inhabitants to disguise one of their leisure activities; it was about a year before it ceased to smell of dope; my predecessors were apparently keen on a joint or two.  This film doesn’t feature any of these things.  In fact, it couldn’t ‘unfeature’ them more if it tried.

2004  –  Certificate: 15  –  USA
Rating Details: Moderate sex

I need to go on a diet, (even more than I normally do).  This film was so syrupy and sweet that just watching it has made me put on about 5kg.  The plot twist at the end is also so obvious that it probably shouldn’t really count as one at all; it’s like one of those weakening fronts you see on weather maps, which by the time they arrive only consist of a few clouds, so if they weren’t pointed out to you you’d probably not even notice them.  I’m not much of a fan of period dramas, so a movie set mostly in the 1930s and 1940s isn’t the sort of thing to really excite me.  The chances of there being many big explosions, spaceships or gratuitous violence felt slim.  Then again, any film with Ryan Gosling in is worth checking out.  James Garner’s in it too, who was already old even when I was young.  So anyway, okay, this is actually a great film, with the most romantic/tragic ending it’s probably possible to have.  As  a fan of Thomas Hardy, I’ve always had a soft spot for relationships that get fucked-up by families, class, money, etc.  This film delivers a classic Hardy class-barrier storyline, rich city girl and poor country boy; (sounds awful doesn’t it)?  Fact is, this film doesn’t really do anything very much else and it certainly doesn’t break any new ground, but what it does do it does really, really well.  In fact the only part that felt a bit weak was the Mother’s ‘revelation’; it did feel a bit of a plot contrivance rather than something that fitted into the overall narrative.  As a romantic period drama, this does deliver; and yes, it is, especially the ending, tissue-friendly.

Recommended for true romantics.  In the perfect world, we’d all end up with our first loves forever.  (Aw, see, I can be romantic too.)

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.

Top badass moment?  I have to give this to Lon Hammond.  He just goes to prove that even if you’re handsome, a war hero, successful, attentive and an all-around nice guy, you don’t always get the girl.  Being a good loser is badass and he manages here to be a top bloke about everything, when he probably had every right to be really, really pissed off.

The Notebook on IMDB (7.9 / 10)


The Longest Day: 3.0 Stars


The Longest Day  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Once again, my ego is crushed as an epic film disappoints me.  I was so totally convinced that this was a documentary about doing my Financial Plan at work a couple of months ago.  Okay, so it says on the box that it was made in 1962, but I thought that was just a typo.  In the old days (well last year) we used to write budget forecasts, but now we prepare Financial Plans.  These involve filling in hundreds and hundreds of little boxes with numbers.  (Technically they’re rectangles, but you know what I mean.)  Anyway, it takes a long time to fill in all those little boxes and doing so makes me feel quite heroic, even though, at the time, it’s hell.  Every number I fill in that represents income is like a shot at the evil, triple alliance of decrepit resources, job loss and bankruptcy.  It’s like I’m defending Cactus World and its allies from certain doom, which in fact is exactly what I am doing.  So imagine my disappointment when I found out this film was about something called the Second World War.  Bloody hell, it’s not even the original, it’s just a sequel. How ego deflating is that?

1962  –  Certificate: PG  –  USA
Rating Details:  Mild Violence

There are some great war films out there; this isn’t one of them.  Despite its epic scale, it somehow doesn’t feel epic very often.  It has so many characters in it that you scarcely get to know any of them before we’re whisked off to meet someone else. Yet you never really get a feel for the magnitude of what’s going on, or learn anything much either.  It doesn’t work as a character study film (“Private Ryan”) or a fictional documentary (“Battle of Britain”); it’s just a load of A-listers in cameos with their own little stories, few of which actually join up in any useful way.  As far as the Invasion goes, all I learnt was that we were having a normal crappy summer weather-wise, the Nazi’s made loads of mistakes because they were too arrogant, the rest of us blundered about in the dark lost and the air forces from both sides basically went on holiday.  It wouldn’t really matter of course, but this was a significant point in history and a lot of people lost their lives or were horribly injured, etc.  They deserve something better than Robert Mitchum and John Wayne wondering about acting like gung-ho heroes; Wayne with his broken ankle and Mitchum with his soggy cigar and drug-addict eyes.  I can where Captain Kirk got his inspiration from.  It’s sort of annoying how it just ends too; I know it’s The Longest Day and all that, but after 171 minutes I’d liked to have had a bit of closure, but it just kind of, ends; not unlike the trailer acually.

Recommended for people with three hours to spare.

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.

Top badass moment?  There were plenty of heroes in this movie, but the real badass ones are those that actually took part in this event for real.  Yes, even the American ones.  Ironically, modern Germany is light years away from the one depicted in this film, whereas some of us still think we’re fighting the war and running an empire.  Losers.

The Longest Day at IMDB (7.8 / 10)


The Philadelphia Experiment: 3.5 Stars


The Philadelphia Experiment  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)I’m pissed off with both Argos and IKEA.  IKEA is a perennial dislike of mine, with its unsubtle attempt to make every home reflect the state of many of our high streets, with each one looking exactly like the next one.  In comparison, I’m generally quite forgiving of Argos.  Sadly, both have now enraged me by showing their true, bloated, evil, stupid, corporate selves.  I need some more shelves to store DVDs on.  I can’t imagine I’m the only person ever to have had this interior design requirement, but after dealing with the aforementioned companies I think I must be, as they’re both so shockingly crap at selling what I would have thought was a very standard, simple, basic bit of furniture.  Bloody hell, I only want to store some DVDs, not the Ebola virus.  After having considered and then rejected some of my more bizarre, expensive or inconvenient solutions, such as moving to a bigger home, converting all my DVDs to digital files and storing them on a huge hard drive somewhere, or distorting the local space-time continuum (it’s the “space” bit there that’s most appealing), I decided to try and buy some new storage units for them, to match the ones I already have.  In the past I’ve bought these from Argos; except last time when it appeared to have discontinued the style I’ve always bought, so I had to get a different type, which kind of pissed me off, because they don’t look the same.  Anyway, this time the old style had miraculously reappeared, but the new style I bought last time had vanished entirely.  This also pissed me off, as I’d decided what I wanted based on the latter.  No matter I though, I’ll just waste a bit more of my life re-measuring everything to see how to fit the old style in the available space instead.  A common theme with these storage units over the years is that every Argos on the planet only ever has a maximum of two in stock at any one time, so if you want more than that you have to keep going back to the shop, over and over again, until you’ve got the number you want.  No matter I thought, again, I’ll buy them online instead and pay the very reasonable £3.95 delivery charge, (which includes the ability to pick the delivery day too).  I got all the way through this process and ordered five, only to be told after I’ve paid that only one was actually in stock for home delivery, so my order had been changed and the others cancelled.  What sort of large, modern company doesn’t link its website sales to its stock?  This really pissed me off, a lot.  Half an hour later, after finally getting the purchase confirmation e-mail and then spending ten minutes on hold, I got through to Betty, (who because she sounded like ‘everyone’s favourite granny’ I didn’t have the heart to get annoyed with about all this), who cancelled my order; (because guess what, you can’t cancel your order online either).  All this messing about had sufficiently annoyed me that I decided to go and buy the same things from IKEA instead.  It sells what’s basically an identical unit for £1.99 less.  So I get through all of its ordering system only to be told it costs £35 for delivery.  Seriously, IKEA is taking the piss here.  If I was IKEA, I’d use the same delivery firm as Argos and charge its customers a 10th of what they’re presently charged and offer a choice of delivery days too.  So after wasting well over an hour of my time, I’m still no closer to solving my original problem.  Bollocks to them both.  This film also features an ‘issue’ with space and time.

1984  –  Certificate PG  –  USA Rating Details:
Mild Language, violence and horror

“Star Wars” was made in 1977, seven years before this film.  It looked amazing at the time and still looks really good now.  This movie looks and feels like it was made in 1960.  Most of the special effects belong in the 50s; in fact the whole feel of it does too.  Despite this, I do rather like this film in a strange sort of way.  Maybe it’s the inherent decentness of the hero, David Herdeg.  (Although he doesn’t seem that bothered when a car of fellow military personnel that’s chasing him crashes and blows up, certainly killing everyone inside it; it’s not like they were even trying to do anything bad to him either). And come to think of it, that’s far from his only sociopathic reaction to what’s going on around him.  In fact, he’s not really very nice at all.  So perhaps it’s the natural sexiness of fellow escapee (née kidnap-victim) Allison (Nancy Allen) that does it for me then?  She was great in “Robocop”.  However, her 80s hairstyle and somewhat pathetic-useless-woman persona do start to grind you down after a while; she even falls over at one post during a chase.  Sadly, there’s nothing very attractive about an idiot.   Of course, I appreciate that both of them had a lot of shit going on in their lives; he having to deal with the consequences of suddenly being transported 41 years into the future and her having not got a job she’d applied for.  But really…  Actually I’ve now realised I’ve no idea why I like this film.  Enigmatic eh?

Recommended for people who long for the return of rubbish 50s sci-fi.  Yes, these people really do exist.

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.  However, one unfortunate guy does sort of get trapped in the deck of the ship with his head half embedded in the metal.  That’s going to take at least two paracetamol to sort out.

Top badass moment?  Move along, there’s nothing to see here; certainly no one heroic enough to do anything worthy of the accolade of “Top Baddass Moment”.

The Philadelphia Experiment at IMDB (6.1/10)


Come and See: 4.0 Stars


Come and See  -  Front DVD CoverI returned to work today after two weeks off.  336 e-mails awaited my attention.  Not only that, but every time I did anything with any of them my copy of Outlook produced millions (well okay one each time then) of dialogue boxes screaming a warning at me that my mailbox was 95% full.  (Thanks Bill, just one at the start of the day would have been fine.)  Bloody Hell, it’s not the 3 Minute Warning, it’s just a bit of space on a hard drive somewhere, not a virus of “28 Days Later” proportions.  What an overreaction it all was; I can’t stand anyone that exaggerates things.  So anyway, I had in mind to now go and make a connection between this film and my hellish day on the frontline in the e-mail war zone, but somehow I can’t bring myself to do so; it’s just too much of a serious movie to trivialise it in that way.

1985  –  Certificate: 15  –  Soviet Union
Rating Details:  Strong violence and holocaust footage

This is a bleak, bleak film.  It starts off pretty depressing and then goes downhill.  Take a trip alongside a youngster called Florya Gaishun, who proudly joins the Belarusian partisans (the local resistance movement) during the Second World War and slowly changes before our eyes into an aged, half-deaf, psychotic teenager, over a period of one summer.  Yes, it really is as much fun as it sounds.  Made in the Soviet Union in 1985, it does at times have the feel of a propaganda film, except that in those, the ‘good guys’ are normally seen as happy, courageous and generally over-achieving.  In this they simply seem wretched, whilst the Nazis come across as Hell on Earth, destroying villages, stealing everything, murdering children and raping woman, whilst taking a lot of pleasure in doing so.  It takes a bit of time to get going too (it’s 137 minutes long) and I found some of the editing a bit confusing, as the passage of time wasn’t always easy to gauge.  It’s not Hollywood so there’re no heroes in this film.  Kudos to the actors for some of what they had to go through too, wading through bogs, being shot at with live ammunition and generally having to run away from explosions and stuff.  The acting, especially from the lead character, is top draw stuff.  I was a bit uncomfortable about the scenes that involved some of the horses or the cow in them though; it looked a bit too much like they were being treated in entirely inappropriate ways; it might look realistic, but there’s no way that sort of thing is acceptable in a film.  This isn’t an especially gory movie, it doesn’t need to be.  However much gross horror and torture porn I watch, it’s films that’re based on reality that I find the most horrific.  This is one of those.   If you need convincing that war isn’t much fun and isn’t something you’d want to get involved with, here’s a good place to start.  Probably one of the best war films ever made.  It’s not exactly what you’d call entertaining, but it’s the sort of movie that ought to be seen.

Recommended for anyone that’s had a bad day and wants to put it in prospective.

No cats and no decapitations.

Top badass moment?  I’m not sure about this film, but anyone who lived through the sort of things depicted in it and managed to keep a sense of proportion in their lives afterwards, is totally badass.

Come and See at IMDB (8.2)