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Showing posts with label War. Show all posts
Showing posts with label War. Show all posts

April 2, 2012

Ten Favorite Movies

Ten Favorite Movies


During my live broadcast show on Blog TV last night, one of the viewers asked me what some of my favorite movies are.  After discussing several of my favorite movies with my viewers, I decided that I would write about some of them here on my blog to show ten of my top favorite movies. 


Talvisota

Talvisota
Talvisota, (The Winter War) is the gritty chronicle of the heroic resistance of a platoon of Osttrobottnian Finns, when Russia attacked Finland in November of '39. Director Pekka Parikka based it on a novel by Antti Tuuri, and also co-wrote the script. The Finns fought tooth and nail, with pitifully meager supplies, and the movie faithfully presents their incredible action in the forbidding snowy landscape. Nominated in 1990 for Best Director (Berlin Internat. Film Festival), winner Best Actor at the 1990 Nordic Film Festival, and winner of 5 top 1990 Finnish awards, it is the most expensive Finnish film ever created, with many wide-angle battle scenes.

Talvisota is a dramatized commemoration the 1939 Russo-Finnish war. Threatened with total annexation, Finland courageously faced down the Soviet forces, despite being outnumbered 50 to 1. The tiny country loses the vital Karelian Isthmus, but Finland remains an independent nation, never falling into the Communist sphere as the Soviets had intended. This long (3 hours plus) but never draggy film personalizes the war by concentrating on the exploits of one beleaguered resistance fighter (Taneli Makela). Also known as The Winter War, Talvisota was Finland's candidate for the 1989 Best Foreign Film Oscar.


 Stalingrad

Stalingrad
A depiction of the brutal battle of Stalingrad, the Third Reich's 'high water mark', as seen through the eyes of German officer Hans von Witzland and his battalion.

It's tempting to call this harrowing picture a World War II version of All Quiet on the Western Front: both films take the perspective of ordinary German soldiers at ground level. Stalingrad surveys the misery of the battle of Stalingrad, the winter siege that cost the lives of almost one and a half million people, Russian defenders and German invaders alike. Not unlike Spielberg's approach to Saving Private Ryan, German director Joseph Vilsmaier rarely steps outside the action to comment on the higher purpose of the war, assuming the audience is aware of the evil of the Nazi regime. Instead, we simply follow a group of soldiers as they endure a series of gut-wrenching episodes, events which have the tang of authenticity and horror. Vilsmaier has a taste for symbolism and surreal touches, which only add to the unsettling sense of insanity this movie conjures up so well


Black Book ( Zwartboek )

Black Book ( Zwartboek )
In the darkest days of World War II, Jewish fugitives attempt to escape occupied Holland – only to face a Nazi ambush. Rachel Stein alone survives the attack and joins the Dutch Resistance to avenge her family. She soon confronts the ultimate test: she must infiltrate German headquarters by tempting Captain Ludwig Mÿntze . In the heat of passion, he uncovers her duplicity...but keeps her secret. Then Rachel's espionage reveals that a murderous traitor lurks within Resistance ranks. Unable to fully trust anyone, Rachel navigates a minefield of deception and becomes an enemy to both sides. Epic, passionate, breathtaking, Black Book relates an untold story of World War II where the distinctions between good and evil become blurred by the complexities of human nature.

Towards the end of WWII, Rachel Stein, a Jewish singer, is living with a gentile family in the countryside. When Allied forces bomb the area, she's forced to flee. On her perilous journey to The Hague,  brunette Rachel joins the Resistance and changes her identity to blonde Ellis de Vries. Her next order of business: infiltrate Gestapo headquarters. Like many Verhoeven heroines, Rachel aces her assignment--and then some. First, she seduces the handsome Captain Müntze , then she falls in love with him. Müntze, who returns her affection, isn't what he appears to be, but their relationship puts both at great risk. At this point, the filmmaker expertly kicks the proceedings into high gear, before concluding on a bittersweet note.


Stalker

Stalker
Stunning, brilliant science fiction from director Andrei Tarkovsky is about a journey taken by a scientist and a writer to a dangerous forbidden zone where fantastic powers can fulfill man's greatest desires. Led by a bald guide known as the Stalker, the men encounter a series of difficult obstacles before they reach their destination.

Challenging, provocative, and ultimately rewarding, Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker is a mind-bending experience that defies explanation. Like Tarkovsky's earlier and similarly enigmatic science fiction classic Solaris, this long, slow, meditative masterpiece demands patience and total attention; anyone accustomed to faster pacing is likely to abandon the nearly three-hour film before its first hour is over. On the other hand, those who approach Tarkovsky's work in a properly receptive (and wide awake) frame of mind are likely to appreciate the film's seductive depth of theme and hypnotic imagery. Set in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic future (although the time-frame is never specified), the eerie and unsettling story focuses on the title character, Stalker , who leads characters known only as the Writer and the Scientist into a mysterious region called The Zone. Tarkovsky films their journey as a long odyssey, or religious pilgrimage, and center of The Zone--said to be under an alien influence--is where each of these men hopes to find a kind of personal transcendence. Despite obvious parallels to The Wizard of Oz, Tarkovsky's film is devoid of special effects or any fantastical elements typically associated with science fiction or fantasy. Instead, Stalker makes astonishing use of sound and bleak-but-beautiful imagery to envelope the viewer into the eerie atmosphere of The Zone and the dank, colorless landscape that surrounds it. And while the film's glacial pacing may be off-putting to some viewers, there's no denying that Stalker has a mesmerizing power of its own, including a thought-provoking and highly debatable ending that propels the film to a higher level of meaning and significance


Katyn

Katyn
After Germany’s invasion of Poland, Joseph Stalin ordered the liquidation of the Polish officer corps, slaughtering nearly 22,000 men in Katyn Forest. Based on this horrific, historical event, Katyn tells the affecting story of four officers and their families as they struggle to uncover the truth. Based on the novel “Post Mortem” by Andrzej Mularczyk. 

Celebrated Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda takes the helm for this Oscar-nominated drama detailing the harrowing events surrounding the 1940 massacre of captured Polish army officers in the Katyn Forest. A unique blend of conventional narrative and documentary-style film making, KATYN opens in the spring of 1940, just as the Soviet Secret police execute a group of Polish officers. On September 1, 1939, German forces had descended upon Poland, paving the way for the Red Army to occupy east Poland as part of the Hitler-Stalin pact. As the Red Army assumed control of east Poland, all officers in the Polish army were placed in Soviet custody. Determined to remain loyal to the army despite the growing danger, Polish officer Andrzej refuses to flee with his wife, Anna. It isn't long before invading forces begin arresting professors in Cracow, and as the detainees languish in prison camps, their families start to fear that they'll never see their loved ones again. Flash forward to April 1943, and the Germans announce the discovery of mass graves. While Anna is relieved not to hear her husband's name on the list of bodies discovered, countless others are left to grieve their losses with no explanation or consolation. January 18, 1945: Cracow is liberated by the Red Army, and propagandist newsreels from the Soviet Union blame German forces for the massacre at Katyn. It is at that point that the fine line between collaboration and resistance within the People's Republic of Poland becomes exceptionally blurred. As the details surrounding the massacre ...Katyn


Downfall

Downfall
The riveting subject of Downfall is nothing less than the disintegration of Adolf Hitler in mind, body, and soul. A 2005 Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film, this German historical drama stars Bruno Ganz as Hitler, whose psychic meltdown is depicted in sobering detail, suggesting a fallen, pathetic dictator on the verge on insanity, resorting to suicide (along with Eva Braun and Joseph and Magda Goebbels) as his Nazi empire burns amidst chaos in mid-1945. While staging most of the film in the claustrophobic bunker where Hitler spent his final days, director Oliver Hirschbiegel dares to show the gentler human side of der Fuehrer, as opposed to the pure embodiment of evil so familiar from many other Nazi-era dramas. This balanced portrayal does not inspire sympathy, however: We simply see the complexity of Hitler's character in the greater context of his inevitable downfall, and a more realistic (and therefore more horrifying) biographical portrait of madness on both epic and intimate scales. By ending with a chilling clip from the 2002 documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary, this unforgettable film gains another dimension of sobering authenticity.

Called dramatic, accurate and harrowing by the San Francisco Chronicle and nominated for the Oscar(r)for Best Foreign Film, Downfall takes you into Hitler's bunker during the brutal and harrowing last days of the Third Reich. Seen through the eyes of Hitler's infamous secretary Traudl Junge, optimism crumbles into grim realization and terror as it becomes clear that Germany's defeat is inevitable. As the Russian army circles the city, the dimly lit halls of the underground refuge become an execution chamber for the Fuhrer and his closest advisors.


Enemy at the Gates

Enemy at the Gates
An all-star cast lights up the screen in this riveting epic hailed as "a vivid dramatization of one of history's titanic turning points". (Gene Shalit, Today)  The year is 1942 and the Nazis are cutting a deadly swath through Russia. Under the leadership of Kruschev , the citizens of Stalingrad are mounting a brave resistance, spurred by the exploits of their local hero, Vassili Zaitsev. An expert sniper, Vassili's deeds have become legendary - thanks to propaganda produced by Vassili's best friend, a political officer named Danilov. To stop Vassili, the Germans dispatch their best sniper, Major Konig, to Stalingrad. When Vassili and Danilov both fall in love with a beautiful soldier, Danilov deserts his friend, leaving Vassili to face his German counterpart alone. As the city burns, Vassili and Konig begin a cunning game of cat and mouse, waging a private war for courage, honor and country.

Like Saving Private Ryan, Enemy at the Gates opens with a pivotal event of World War II--the German invasion of Stalingrad--re-created in epic scale, as ill-trained Russian soldiers face German attack or punitive execution if they flee from the enemy's advance. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud captures this madness with urgent authenticity, creating a massive context for a more intimate battle waged amid the city's ruins. Embellished from its basis in fact, the story shifts to an intense cat-and-mouse game between a Russian shepherd raised to iconic fame and a German marksman whose skill is unmatched in its lethal precision. Vassily Zaitzev has been sniping Nazis one bullet at a time, while the German Major Konig has been assigned to kill Vassily and spare Hitler from further embarrassment. There's love in war as Vassily connects with a woman soldier, but she is also loved by Danilov, the Soviet officer who promotes his friend Vassily as Russia's much-needed hero. This romantic rivalry lends marginal interest to the central plot, but it's not enough to make this a classic war film. Instead it's a taut, well-made suspense thriller isolated within an epic battle, and although Annaud and cowriter Alain Godard (drawing from William Craig's book and David L. Robbins's novel The War of the Rats) fail to connect the parallel plots with any lasting impact, the production is never less than impressive. Highly conventional but handled with intelligence and superior craftsmanship, this is warfare as strategic entertainment, without compromising warfare as a manmade hell on Earth.


Gallipoli

Gallipoli
Gallipoli is Australian director Peter Weir's story of how the irresistible lure of adventure and the unknown, combined with national pride, bring two young men (Mel Gibson and Mark Lee) together in the Australian army in 1915. They cross continents and great oceans, climb pyramids and walk through the ancient sands of Egypt to join their regiment at the fateful battle of Gallipoli. The echoes of history blend with the friends' compelling destiny as they become part of a legendary World War 1 confrontation between Australia and the German allied Turks- a battle that is to Australians what the Alamo is to Americans. 

An outstanding drama, Gallipoli resonates with sadness long after you have seen it. Set during World War I, this brutally honest antiwar movie was cowritten by director Peter Weir. Mark Lee and a sinfully handsome Mel Gibson are young, idealistic best friends who put aside their hopes and dreams when they join the war effort. This character study follows them as they enlist and are sent to Gallipoli to fight the Turks. The first half of the film is devoted to their lives and their strong friendship. The second half details the doomed war efforts of the Aussies, who are no match for the powerful and aggressive Turkish army. Because the script pulls us into their lives and forces us to care for these young men, we are devastated by their fate


Anne Frank - The Whole Story


Anne Frank - The Whole Story
Ben Kingsley, Brenda Blethyn, and Hannah Taylor Gordon star in the stirring tale of one of the most influential young women of the 20th century. Based on Melissa Muller's critically acclaimed book, ANNE FRANK goes beyond the story you already know and paints the true portrait of Anne both before and after she went into hiding. Get to know the high-spirited and popular girl before the war, and experience the challenges of the brave people who risked their lives trying to keep her safe. ANNE FRANK also explores the enduring mystery of who betrayed the Frank family and reveals what happened next.

Anne Frank: The Whole Story delivers exactly what it promises: the incredibly moving complete story of Anne Frank, going beyond what the Jewish teenage girl wrote in her widely read diary. Anne, along with her family and friends of her family, hid in a secret annex behind her father's office in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of Holland. She dutifully kept a diary, which became a worldwide bestseller when her father published it in the 1950s. The story has been adapted for television and movies before, but this version, which played on ABC television, moves beyond what Anne wrote, meeting up with the Frank family before Anne receives her diary, and following her past the diary's last entries into Auschwitz and Birkenau. Hannah Taylor Gordon is a superb Anne, bringing to life the multifaceted girl, in turns intelligent, dreamy, creative, spoiled, and bratty, a girl like any other except that Anne is a Jew in Nazi-occupied Holland. The only one who outshines Gordon is Ben Kingsley as Anne's father, Otto Frank. His quiet performance is extraordinarily powerful; as he watches his family slip away, it is impossible not to feel his grief. This brave film is difficult in parts to watch--the concentration camp scenes are brutal--but this is a remarkable adaptation of Anne's life, and it is a film to be shared and discussed and remembered.



Defiance

Defiance
Three ferociously committed actors fill the roles of the Bielski brothers, Jewish partisans who escaped into the forests of Eastern Europe during the Second World War. Daniel Craig (taking a break from 007 duty) is Tuvia, the leader of a group of refugees who eventually number over a thousand; Liev Schreiber is Zus, the antagonistic warrior; and Jamie Bell is Asael, a peacemaker no less devoted to the survival of the community. The three performers give life to director Edward Zwick's account of this little-known chapter of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust, which otherwise plays more like a history lesson than a full-blooded movie. The film's best achievement is its strong location work, in Lithuania--as the community makes its home in the forest, the landscape becomes an important player in the drama at hand, and the changing of the seasons is charted with bone-chilling detail. Schreiber manages to get a little wry humor into this otherwise sober enterprise, and Daniel Craig creates an unusual character: a sort of anti-Bond, a hero whose body is all too fallible and whose decision-making is sometimes hesitant or morally compromised. It's a rare hero in a World War II movie that tends to withdraw from scenes rather than stride into them, but that's what Craig does. More than likely, the movie's main achievement will be sending the curious to read the histories of the Bielski brothers and why they matter in the chronicles of the Holocaust.

Daniel Craig stars as Tuvia Bielski, an ordinary citizen turned hero, in this action-packed epic of family, honor, vengeance and salvation. Defiance is a riveting adventure that showcases the extraordinary true story of the Bielski brothers, simple farmers –outnumbered and outgunned- who turned a group of war refugees into powerful freedom fighters. Tuvia, along with his unyielding brother, Zus, motivate hundreds of civilians to join their ranks against the Nazi regime. Their “Inspirational story”* is a true testament to the human spirit.


We Were Soldiers

We Were Soldiers
Based on the book by Lt. Col. Harold Moore (ret.) and journalist Joseph Galloway, We Were Soldiers offers a dignified reminder that the Vietnam War yielded its own crop of American heroes. Departing from Hollywood's typically cynical treatment of the war, writer-director Randall Wallace focuses on the first engagement of American soldiers with the North Vietnamese enemy in November 1965. Moore (played with colorful nuance by Mel Gibson) and nearly 400 inexperienced troopers from the U.S. Air Cavalry were surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers, and the film re-creates this brutal firefight with graphic authenticity, while telling the parallel story of grieving army wives back home. While UPI reporter Galloway (Barry Pepper) risks his life to chronicle the battle, Wallace offers a balanced (though somewhat fictionalized) perspective while eliciting laudable performances from an excellent cast. Like the best World War II dramas of the 1940s, We Were Soldiers pays tribute to brave men while avoiding the pitfalls of propaganda.

Mel Gibson and Randall Wallace, the star and writer of Braveheart, reunite for this action-packed war movie that features explosive battle sequences, thrilling aerial photography and unforgettable military heroes who fought for their country, their loved ones and their freedom. The year is 1965 and America is at War with North Vietnam. Commanding the air cavalry is Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Gibson), a born leader committed to his troops. His target: the La Drang Valley, called “The Valley of Death.” As Moore prepares for one of the most violent battles in U.S. history, he delivers a stirring promise to his soldiers and their families: “I will leave no man behind…dead or alive. We will all come home together.” This heroic true story of commitment, courage and sacrifice also stars Madeline Stowe, Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, Chris Klein, Keri Russell and Barry Pepper.