A Collection of Short Reviews

Posted on October 2, 2013

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The Devil’s Brigade (1968)

My genre Nazi film fest (ZOMG! Nazis!) included this one, but it’s much more a typical war movie than a genre film, so I left it out of the earlier column.

The Devil’s Brigade is based on the true story of the joint US-Canadian First Special Services Unit. The British came up with an idea for a commando unit trained specifically for winter and mountain warfare, to attack hydroelectric plants, oil fields, and heavy water factories behind enemy lines. The British felt that the demands on their own commando forces, and the demands on British industry, were too great to allow them to create the unit and its specialized equipment. They offered the job to the Americans, and the rest is history.

The movie has a fantastic cast, including William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Andrew Prine, Harry Carey Jr, Luke Askew, Richard Jaeckel, and Claude Akins. Michael Rennie and Carol O’Connor have cameos.

This is one of those movies that, if I see it is on television, I have to watch it (The Dirty Dozen is another one). I’ve also read the history of the unit, and although it was not made up of rejects and discipline cases, otherwise the most outrageous parts of the movie are the ones closest to the truth.

Safe House (1998)

This is not the 2012 film with Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington, okay? This is a made-for-cable movie with Patrick Stewart.

Mace Sowell (Stewart) lives alone. He is beginning to suffer the first signs of Alzheimer’s. This is particularly unfortunate for Mace, because he’s never told his daughter about his career as a government assassin. He has some dirt on a political candidate that he uses to protect himself from the candidate. His daughter wants him committed to a home – and completely disarmed – before he kills anyone. They compromise on a caretaker, who Mace doesn’t trust.

This is not a great movie, by any means. That said, Stewart gives a terrific, nuanced, performance of a man who is gradually losing himself, is terrified by the prospect, and completely misunderstood by the people around him.

This is a movie about a person and his struggle with Alzheimers, with some spy stuff for spice. I was glad that I watched it.

I’ll Believe You (2007)

Here is an example where the Netflix recommendation system nailed it. This is exactly the kind of quirky, independent, comedy movie that I want to watch.

Dale Sweeney (David Alan Basche) has his dream job as a radio talk show host. He loves talking to his fellow Floridians about swamp apes, UFOs, government mind control rays, and all kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories. The station manager (Fred Willard), however, is cancelling the show unless Dale can build some momentum. That night, Dale gets a call in an unidentifiable language. Men in Black show up in town, and Dale is on the hunt for what he believes is an alien calling for help.

The cast includes Siobhan Fallon, Thomas Gibson, Chris Elliott, Ed Helms, Mo Rocca, and Patrick Warburton. The story is surprising and fast-paced.

Two thumbs up from me.

The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch (2008)

This is a French action movie that Netflix kept insisting I might like.

Based on a comic strip, it concerns itself with a rebellious young man who suddenly inherits a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation from his adopted father. Largo must race against time to prove his right to inherit the business and to uncover who killed his father.

Overall, I thought the pacing was uneven and Largo’s intelligence fluctuated according to the needs of the plot. Sometimes he was clever and insightful, and sometimes completely obvious things passed him by.

The third act revelation was handled well, and I enjoyed myself enough that I was disappointed when I found that Netflix did not have the sequel.

A Town Called Panic (2009)

This movie about animated plastic toys on a fantastic adventure won three awards and was nominated for a fourth.

I want the time that I spent watching it back.

If you, on the other hand, enjoy surreal, absurdist, French farces, by all means watch this. Just not when I’m visiting, okay?

Beneath Hill 60 (2010)

When I was doing my genre Nazi film fest (ZOMG! Nazis!), Netflix got a little confused and recommended this to me.

This is an Australian WWI movie about one of the largest man-made explosions ever set off. It is a gritty movie about trench warfare, and a group of Australian mining engineers recruited to use their expertise with tunnels and explosives in the King’s service.

This movie is so focused on telling the historical story that, except for the lead (Brendan Cowell as Oliver Woodward), the cast is indistinguishable. There’s the Kid, the Guy with Mustache, the Twitchy Guy, the Father and Son Team, and so on.

If you have a particular interest in WWI, this is probably a great movie to see. Otherwise, it’s a solid “meh.”

A Dangerous Method (2011)

This movie is way outside my typical viewing habits, but it stars Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, and Kiera Knightley, so I gave it a shot.

I kind of wish I hadn’t.

Basically, this is about the relationship between psychiatric pioneers Freud (Mortensen) and Jung (Fassbender), and how Jung’s relationship with a patient, Sabina Spielrein (Knightley), came between them.

This is a movie about unpleasant people having a miserable time, and still producing important work that would change the world. If you want to sit through a 99 -minute movie to see Kiera Knightley’s nipple while Michael Fassbender spanks her, this one’s for you.

While it’s well made, it left me with a difficult choice when giving it a rating on Netflix. If I said that I liked it, I would get more movies like it recommended to me. So I gave it a lower rating than I thought it deserved as a film.

A Lonely Place to Die (2011)

I rented this movie warily. I was afraid it would turn out to be some low-budget torture porn. I was delighted to find it a gripping thriller instead.

Rob (Alec Newman), Ed (Ed Speelers), Alison (Melissa George), Jenny (Kate Magowan), and Alex (Gary Sweeney) are hiking and climbing in the Scottish Highlands. They hear someone calling for help, and find a girl buried in the forest (in a box, with an air duct). Being good people, they dig up the little girl and decide to report everything to the authorities.

And then the shooting starts.

I was recently introduced to the sport of rock climbing, as part of working for one of the largest outdoor sporting goods companies in the world, so I loved the climbing at the beginning of the film. Then there was the beauty and majesty of the Highlands. On top of that, I got to watch the story of a group of people who simply would not quit trying to do the right thing.

Well worth a watch.

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Posted in: Movies