Search results for ‘Red Army’

Red Army

February 5th, 2015 — 08:22 pm

*****Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 11.08.25 PM

The Red Army-sp The Red Army is a film about hockey, except that it isn’t! We agreed with several people in the audience, with whom we saw this film, who stated that they had not been looking forward to this documentary about the national hockey team of the Soviet Union. However, we, like they, were entirely captivated by this incredibly well executed documentary written, directed and produced by the young filmmaker, Gabe Polsky. While much of the film showed actual footage of hockey games played by this extraordinary team, the scenes were beautifully put together between photos of early years of some of the players, magnificent interviews with a wide range of people and footage of life in the soviet union over the years. Mr. Polsky created a film that was enlightening, poignant and engaging by focusing mainly on one player, Viacheslav (Slava) Festinov and telling his story. By doing that, he told the story of the proud Russian people and their culture. He was able to explicate the determination and love of country, even in the face of adversity and lack of freedom that existed. Festinov as a young boy was like millions of other youths who wanted to play hockey and dreamt of being on his national team. Because of his skills he became part of the national hockey-training program that selects the best and vigorously trains them for several years. Through carefully constructed and interwoven interviews and film clips we come to see the total dedication to the game that these young men developed. We are introduced to the coaches who revolutionized the game by treating it on the level of complex ballet and complicated chess games, both of which the Russians had been known to be masters. We also see the unrelenting, even cruel training techniques that required total dedication and the total power that a coach with support of the government could have over the players. The film shows the fascinating years of the amazing world wide successes, then the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” in which the United States Olympic hockey team upset the Soviet Union and went on to win the Gold Medal at Lake Placid and the redoubled efforts following that loss which created a whole new “must win” era in the Soviet Union. The events that then occurred with all the twists and turns of a “must see” thriller are captured in the film keeping the viewer totally engaged. The events in Festinov’s life as well as the changes in the Soviet Union are compelling. With hockey as a platform, it is what happens in the lives of the people in this space that makes for a film that compels you to become involved. It is the best of what a good documentary does. You see, you learn and most of all you care. (2014)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Documentary, History, Sport

Red Cliff

January 17th, 2010 — 02:12 am

Red Cliff* * * *
Red Cliff
– sp- If Steven Spiegelberg were to decide to make a blockbuster movie about the US North-South Civil war and the Battle of Gettysburg most Americans would probably be quite familiar with the various leaders and generals. Even more so apparently are the Chinese and the people of other Asian countries knowledgeable about the cast of characters who took part in the great battles as the armies of the north tried to conquer those of the southern China, leading to the battle at Red Cliff, which took place about eighteen hundred years ago. Director John Woo felt that this was so much the case that he needed to make two versions of this movie, one for non Asian world with more background material and a two part film with even more details of the actual events for the Chinese and others who are familiar with the historical events.

The 2 ½ hour movie which we saw has a brief English narration at the beginning and then is in Mandarin with English subtitles which you soon forget are present. It shows the personal and political decision of the northern dynasty to send it’s huge army which probably numbered in the hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the south to squash the smaller southern coalition. A great deal of the movie consists of battle scenes on the ground and between naval forces. At first we had the impression we were watching a Chuck Norris or Jackie Chen movie that we would only have seen in coming attractions, with bodies whirling through air, swords and spears impaling soldiers, blood squirting out of the period armor, catching spears in mid-flight, horses rearing up, thousand of arrows flying through sky and all sorts of acrobatics. People are being killed everywhere except the main characters who seem to be able to leap between thrusts of opposing soldiers. Then after awhile we realized that in fact we were watching a classic operatic story and ballet in a beautiful setting. John Woo told our film course that he used 1500 hundred Chinese soldiers in the movie and made them look like many times that number of warriors by computer generated editing techniques that he also used to enhance the magnificent appearing background. The movie also vividly shows the brilliant military strategies that were used by the outnumbered army including clever troop formations, innovative weaponry and an exquisite understanding of the forces of nature. Woo also chose to create a story line that was not in the known history of these events that involves the role of some very brave, strong and attractive women.
In the end it is a beautiful, poetic epic movie with an antiwar theme but yet pays homage to the value of people working together for a just cause even against daunting odds. This film has a cast of thousands, used 24 cameras and took 4 1/2 years to make. It obviously cost multi millions of dollars to produce which came from many countries including the Chinese government. We can’t see how it will miss being a tremendous hit in the Asian world and is bound to have a great following in the US. Anyone seeing this movie should be sure to not miss the closing credits, which includes some very moving verse. (2009)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Foreign, War

14 Films To See Over the Summer

June 23rd, 2015 — 11:33 pm

People often ask us for recommendations of films to see. Soon Oscar season will be upon us and we will want to see the newest films which will be contenders for the Academy Awards.

In the meantime, we have put together a list of 14 excellent movies which we have reviewed  between January and June and which we suggest that you consider viewing this summer. Most of them will be out by July and probably all can be found on Netflix.

The top four were 5 star movies in our opinion and others were excellent 4 star movies. You can click and see our reviews for each one. As always your comments at the end of each review are welcome.

 

Michael and Susan Blumenfield

 

Desert Dancer

Wild Tales

McFarland USA

Red Army

 

 

The Little Death

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

Girl on the Edge

The Road Within

Danny Colllins

Potiche

The Forger

5 to 7

Merchants of Doubt

Tangerines

Comment » | 4 Stars, 5 Stars, Uncategorized

The Kindergarten Teacher (In Hebrew with subtitles)

April 12th, 2017 — 07:57 pm

**

The Kindergarten Teacher (In Hebrew with English Subtitles)- nf

The premise of this film is that an Israeli kindergarten teacher (Sarit Larry) discovers that Yoav (Avi Shnaidman), one of her five-year-old students has a propensity for writing poetry that is far beyond his years. She herself is somewhat of a poet and becomes very pro-occupied with the poems that emerged from her young student. We get a glimpse of her life. She is married with two grown children, one of whom is just made an officer in the Israeli army. We detect the restlessness in this teacher and an instability in her life, as she seems uncertain of her love life, sexuality and her life in general. She is also becoming obsessed with the young poet and writes down all his poems and then even tries to have him participate in a forum for poets to recite their work. The kindergarten teacher seems to be troubled and searching and the young child seems bewildered but still able to spout the thoughtful poetry.

The whole idea of the film seems so preposterous that it became difficult for us to really understand it. We even considered that perhaps something was lost in the translation. However interestingly, after the film concluded, there was a segment on the Netflix DVD in which the screenwriter and director Nadav Lapid was interviewed about the film. He shared with the audience that he as a child that age had the same ability to come forth with adult poetry about the life around him, an ability that he lost when he got older. Obviously, being a filmmaker became his way of exploring life, its complications and vicissitudes. In the end, we concluded that the film maker found a unique way of showing us his view that the world is not a safe place for sensitive souls. (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Mr. Gaga- A True Story of Love and Dance

February 9th, 2017 — 06:31 pm

****

 Mr. Gaga- A True Story of Love and Dance -sp

If you are a fan and lover of cutting-edge modern dance, you will be mesmerized by this foreign  documentary film( in English) of the story of Israeli choreographer and dancer, Odar Naharin. His passion and dedication to dance, and his travels from Israel to New York and back to Israel, as well as the development of the special “Gaga” movement that he originated is a fascinating story. In a post-screening discussion, Director Tomer Heymann, who produced the film with his brother, Barak Heymann and Diana Holtzman, shared the several year adventure that he took to make this movie. He told how he tracked down childhood footage of Naharin, along with interviews of some of the icons in modern dance.

A reflection of the uniqueness and originality of Naharin is not only demonstrated in the design and movement of his work, but also in the journey that he has taken during his 64 years. His interest in movement dates back to his youth and also his time in the Israeli army during the Yom Kippur War (a leg injury prevented him from directly being in combat).

Naharin came to New York and studied simultaneously at the Julliard and the American Ballet Theater (an unheard of accomplishment). He was then accepted by Martha Graham into the most prestigious modern dance company in the world. Actual video footage of Graham talking about this young protégé is shown. Despite this tremendous opportunity and the recognition of his skills, he did not feel comfortable continuing to study in the United States and decided he wanted to form his own ballet company in Israel. By that time, he had met his wife-to-be, a beautiful Asian dancer, Mari Kajiwara, with whom he fell in love at first sight and arranged a meeting with her. She was the first non-black dancer accepted into the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. They came to Israel to direct the Batsheva Dance Company.

There are many more trials and tribulations, happy moments and great sadness, some of which are shared with us in this film. At the time of Israel’s 50th anniversary, when his dance company was to be one of the featured cultural events, there erupted a controversy about the various simple costumes of Israeli army undergarments that his dancers were to wear.

As riveting as is the unusual storyline about this unusual man, the real attraction of this film is the dance that explodes on the screen. Mixed with some very interesting footage of a young Naharin, most of the movie shows beautifully photographed dancers from all different angles doing the amazing movements that this man has pioneered during his lifetime. The film opens in Los Angeles this week at the Laemmle Monica Theater and at Lincoln Center in New York City. Hopefully, the showing will expand to other theatres so many more people can enjoy this unique story and dance experience. (2017)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Foreign

Land of Mine

December 8th, 2016 — 05:14 am

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Land Of Mine

We just had the opportunity to see Denmark’s entry for the Academy Award for best foreign film this year and we met the writer/director, Martin Zandvliet and one of the producers, Mikael Rieks. This is a very well-done movie, but what stands out about the film is learning a previously little-known aspect concerning World War II and the unique ethical dilemma which the film spotlights.

Towards the end of World War II, the Germans anticipated an Allied invasion of their occupation of Europe and thought it would likely occur on the shores of Denmark which would give the Allies the shortest distance to Berlin. The Germans planted hundreds of thousands of explosive mines on the beaches of Denmark. Of course, instead, the Allies successfully invaded at Normandy. Once the war was over, the Danes were faced with a dilemma of how to go about the dangerous task of removing these deadly explosive mines. They chose to use thousands of German prisoners of war, many of whom were young teenage soldiers who had beenconscripted into the German army towards the end of the war in a desperate attempt to fight off the Allies.

So now the Danes were forcing these mostly young prisoners of war to learn how to do the dangerous task of defusing the enormous number of mines on the coastline. You also may want to consider if there is  a valid question whether such forced life-threatening labor is against the treaties signed at the Geneva Convention.

So if this movie accomplished nothing else but to highlight this fascinating ethical dilemma, it would deserve to be seen. However, the production did this in a very personal and dramatic fashion. Most of the movie focused on a group of about a dozen German prisoners of war, most of whom appear to be young teenagers, perhaps as young as 15 or 16 who are under the command of a Danish soldier Sergeant Rasmussen (Roland Moller). Most viewers who appreciate the inhumane treatment to millions of people by the Nazi invaders of course might understand the initial harsh treatment by the sergeant of his captors as he trained and forced them to undertake the mine-clearing task.

However, the added dimension of this drama being played out on the screen was the viewers’ empathy for these young prisoners of war who shared dreams and aspirations of returning home to their families. Not surprising, the Danish sergeant himself, begins to understand his young prisoners and even care about them.

So our emotions are stirred up as we appreciate a great conflict and we can identify with the characters on the screen. There is drama, tension, and excellent photography by Camilla Hjelm Knudsen who is the wife of the director/screenwriter. We come away with a little more insight into history and human nature which adds up to a very good film. (2016)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, War

The Monuments Men

February 15th, 2014 — 10:05 pm

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The Monuments Men -Guest Review

This is a guest review by Ron Turco, M.D.  Dr. Turco is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst from Portalnd, Oregon. He is Chair of the Committee on Art, Culture and Creativity of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatrythe-monuments-men-poster02

I read with substantial disappointment David Denby’s shallow and un-insightful review of George Clooney’s new film “The Monuments Men.” (New Yorker – Feb. 17-24, 2014).He compares this film to the old Frankenheimer movie “The Train.”  There is no comparison, as the train was not historically accurate and barely mentioned in passing Rose Valland, Temporary Custodian at the Jeu de Paume whose influence was so important in the discovery of looted works in France, at the risk of her own life, that she received the French Legion of Honor and the Medal of Resistance becoming a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, making her one of the most decorated women in France. She also received a Medal of Freedom from the United States in 1948 and an Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany. It was her book “Le Front deL’Art” that was the basis of the 1965 movie  “The Train”, a movie in which she was only briefly mentioned, although she had also received a commission in the French First Army.

 The Monuments Men were a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts and and Archives section (MFAA) of the military, attempting to save as much of the culture of Europe and Western Civilization as possible and were willing to fight and die for something greater than themselves. Some were killed in combat.

George Clooney has done an outstanding job with his film “The Monuments Men” and in reminding us that the story of The Holocaust must be told over and over again in different ways and at different times. He masterfully and in sometimes direct or subtle ways brings out the Nazi horror and disregard for human life. Mr Denby has missed the point entirely in his understanding of these heroes and heroines and mentions that most of the works were returned to private collectors. That is not completely true. The works were returned to the countries of origin or to the Jews from whom they were stolen. In the film George Clooney also does an excellent job in presenting the value and importance of the sacrifices of the MFAA people, a job that was endorsed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and strongly supported by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Many of these people went on, after the war, to make substantial contributions to art and culture. Private First Class Lincoln Kirstein founded the legendary New York City Ballet as one of the most important cultural figures of his generation. Second Lieutenant James J. Rorimer, who worked closely with Rose Valland, was instrumental in founding the Met’s medieval collections branch, the Cloisters. “The Monuments Men” film is very close to the facts (a few minor changes, as with all films, including “Lincoln” and “The Navajo Code Talkers”). The acting is superb and I highly recommend this film, especially to young people who may not have an understanding of the broad ramifications of The Holocaust or the history of these brave people. John Edsel’s scholarly book “The Monuments Men” should be required reading in high schools throughout our country. (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History, War

The Fifth Estate

October 11th, 2013 — 08:10 am

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The Fifth Estate- sp. If the “4th Estate” is a term that refers to people who organize and report the news what is the “5th Estate” ? It is basically the subject of this movie which is the story of Julian Assange (Benedtict Cumberbatch) and his assistant Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl) who ran WikiLeaks, the controversial website which is know for reporting secret  private government documents. On the day we previewed this movie the real Julian Assange who is living in the Ecuador  Embassy in London because of legal charges against him for being with underage girls, released a letter that he had written to the actor who plays him in this movie. In it he denounced the film and said it is based on “the two most discredited books on the market.” He also stated that he felt the  film intended to depict him and his work in a negative light. At our screening we met screenwriter Josh Singer, who has a law degree from Harvard and a MBA  as well has having been a writer for the TV show West Wing for three years. He contended that he researched the topic very thoroughly and spent time with many of the subjects in the movie although he never met Assange. WikiLeaks was originated by Assange as a website in which anyone could report evidence of wrong doing and be assured anonymity as well as having their report published on the website without editing. The small team of Assange, Berg and a few others would check out the sources before they would put it up for the world to see. They attracted whistleblowers from around the world and broke some major scandals. Everything came to head when US Army Private Manning leaked thousands of top secret documents about the US war in Afganistan which were to be jointly published by WikiLeaks, The NY Times, The London Guardian and Das Spiegel (a leading German newspaper). These documents were to include information about informants who were  living in war zones whose lives could therefore be in great danger. The question with which the film struggles is whether Assange is a very creative idealist devoted to uncensored free speech who has developed a new form of journalistic expression or if he is a personally flawed individual who is insensitive to the implications of the tool which he has developed and the manner in which he tries to use it. Or perhaps he is a combination of these two characterizations. The direction by Bill Condon is fast moving and quite creative as exemplified by showing the online chat room where the main characters communicate while they are traveling all over the world as an actual large interesting physical space. We must admit that we both found several of the scenes confusing as we were not exactly sure where they were taking place and why the characters were there. However, the story line did carry us along and the conflicts which unfolded did challenge and inform us. This adds up to a very worthwhile movie. (2013)  

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

War Witch

February 22nd, 2013 — 01:41 am

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War Witch sp – We saw this  Oscar nominated movie for best foreign film a few days before the Academy Award ceremony. It is the Canadian entry since that is the home country of Director Kim Nguyen who also wrote the screenplay which he told our screening audience in a post film interview that he has been writing on and off for 10 years. It is set somewhere in the African Congo where a rebel army abducts children and makes them soldiers. The movie, which was primarily filmed in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo, appears to be quite authentic. It  follows Komono, a  12 year old girl, for two years, starting with the point where she is captured, made to shoot her parents and become a soldier. Circumstances lead her captors to believe that she has special powers, can see things that are going to happen and therefore protect them. She is played by a first time local actress Rachel Mwanza, who actually grew up in the streets without a family and was chosen by Kim Nguyen after auditioning over 2000 young girls.  She is on the screen just about all the time and expresses clearly her inner pain and emotions  well as her  own thoughts and images with a little help from the visual effects of the film and the voiceover  in French by another actress (with English subtitles of course). It also has a great soundtrack of  what appeared to be African folk music which captured the atmosphere and mood  of the film. Mwanza for her first film has already won the the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this month and also won the award for the Best Actress in the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. In the film she is accompanied most of the time by another child soldier who is an Albino known as the Magician, also very well  played by a local actor Serge Kanyinda. This movie presents us with a glimpse at a lesser known atrocity  which has occurred in modern times. It is also a simple and beautiful, if not,  sad love story . It well deserves the recognition which it is receiving. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Foreign, History, Romance, War

No

January 24th, 2013 — 08:44 pm

****

No- spimages-9

This Chilean movie was one of 90 foreign films  submitted by various countries as an entry for an Academy Award. It is the first film from Chile to become one of the five  finalist for an Oscar in this category which will be awarded in about one month from the date that this review is being written. This is the second film directed by Pablo Larrain to be entered by Chile for an Academy Award. The other film was Tony Mannero in 2008.  No is a dramatization of a very important event that happened Chile 1988 , about which we would guess most Americans might only have the vaguest notion. That was the plebiscite in which the Chilean people were given the opportunity, because of international pressure put on long term President and dictator Augusto Pinochet, to vote whether they wanted him to continue for another 8 years. Pinochet had been an army general who was part of the coup d’etat that had overthrown the government of Salvadore Allende in 1973 and subsequently ruled the country as an appointed dictator President. His government was known for killing, interning and torturing thousands of Chilean citizens who resisted his rule. Therefore it was a big event when this election, which was under international scrutiny, was scheduled to take place where a yes or no vote would determine whether Pinochet would stay in place. The story line follows Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) who is a skilled advertising executive who becomes one of the masterminds behind the “ No “ campaign. Each side is given 15 minutes per day on television to make its case  and the actual 1980s commercials  from each side which were shown in that  election were used in the film. In fact 1/3 of the movie is actual archival tapes which is weaved into the scripted segments. This probably included some of the brutal street scenes where Pinochet’s thugs and police were roughing up protesters. 1980 cameras were used to shoot the movie to capture the texture of the times. The movie showed  the anxiety, drama and fear of the NO advertising team as they made their decision to emphasize what they thought would be a new day for Chile (with song and dance) as compared to all out attack on the existing government (although they did some of that also). On one hand this was an exciting battle with a dramatic ending but it also highlighted the subtle emotions with which these people struggled. We learned that many of the small but powerful  roles of the characters on both sides of this struggle were played by the actual people who had been part of the No supporters  25 years ago . This gave our movie experience an added touch of authenticity. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History

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