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I review books both history and fiction of many genres. I tend to review films that are off the beaten track and especially World Cinema and I dont mean the gentlemans excuse me type of thing. I like films about war, love, life and anything that could be classified as gay interest. Whilst I have quite a wide taste in music I tend to review the less well known stuff like Okkervil River, Israel Nash Gripka or even Grouplove, but I did slip a Vaccines in once. I appreciate feedback on my reviews and want to thank you for taking the time to read this. Tom
This is a South African made film about some of the former colonies men who volunteered their services to fight for Britain at the hour of her greatest need in the dark days of World War 2. Meet Captain Kirk (yes he is really called that) played by Nicholas Van Der Bijl, in a performance of varying degrees. He leads a motley crew of his fellow countrymen who use such vocabulary as ‘cheerio’ and ‘filly’ in reference to ladies. Anyway they are fighting for RAF, Bomber Command and have to go and bomb the bejesus out of Germany etc.
Well whilst over Germany they get shot and have to make an emergency landing and then decide to battle their way back to France and the safety of the British lines, this is set late in the war and Operation Overlord has already taken place so we are well past D Day. What happens next is the story of their journey.
Right, for war film buffs there are a few things wrong with this film, first off the planes are al CGI, which is not a problem as they are all done really well even the Mescherschmitts, with props that look real and proper smoke etc so well done there. Problem is these guys are flying during the day. By this stage of the war the USAAF were doing the daylight runs and the RAF were doing the night runs. And they had fighter escort in the latter stages when this is set and there are none here. They are also flying Liberators which were never deployed to bomb Bremen by the RAF as depicted here. Now you are doing CGI so you could have got a Lancaster or a Wellington even, but still never mind.
The acting is all quite good and the love interest in the shape of Kirky’s beloved in good if underplayed Lillie Claire as the neglected and dutiful lover is actually really convincing. This does have its moments and is far from being a bad movie, but factual errors really annoy some people and it is not a real full on ‘action fest’ especially once the plane goes splat, but I still found a lot to actually like here, hence the rating. If factual errors annoy you then best to avoid, and it was released as ‘Battle for the skies’ in the UK for some strange reason, at least it retains its proper title in the US.
I got this the day it came out but have waited til now to write a review as I wasn't sure about it at first and that is often a very good thing. As this is one of those albums that is a real grower, until one day all the pieces fall into place and you spend the next fortnight finding as much time as possible to listen to it.
This is Will Sheff making a return to his youth back in the 1980's in hometown Meriden, NH. These are songs about growing up and a small world with the promise of so much more, best friends forever and summers remembered with rose tinted glasses. Jonathan Meiburg (Sheerwater) makes a much welcomed contribution with banjo, harmony and vocals and we have a harpsichord played by the uber talented Justin Sherburn. But the real talent is as always Will Sheff and his soaring vocals and imagery of lyrics that are closer to poetry than a `pop tune'.
There are so many stand out tracks here `Lido Pier Suicide Car' is excellent and check out the versions on YouTube. `Stay Young' is an homage to the music of the eighties complete with fuzzy synth and if you try dancing to it, it only works if you do it eighties stylie, so large shoulder pads and rubbish bouffant may actually help. `Down the deep river' is almost anthemic, especially in length but it could go on all day as far as I am concerned, mind you then it would probably be `prog rock'.
The opening number `It was my season' is one of those that yearns for the golden days and all that was promised and is just brilliant. There are so many instruments on this album and it all works including trumpet, lap steel and harmonica. The only track that seems out of place is `Walking without Frankie' which is a bit slow and brooding and brings the pace down a tad. The two final tracks are a joy especially album closer `Black Nemo' which is up there with any of Okkervil's best work. I am a bit biased as I have loved this band for four years but I still think this is a simply excellent life affirming good piece of music - even the cover art is great,; ok gush over I am off for another listen.
I am not much of a computer geek but liked the idea of using this to stream films etc straight on to my television. In theory this is a simple and effective product but in practice in can be an effort to make work. To install the receiver you just plug in the power chord (supplied) and the HDMI cable. That is if you have a HDTV, then turn it all on and wait for the ‘Ready to connect’ screen to appear on the HDTV.
To connect using WiDi you have to find the Internet Wireless display on what ever device you are using and launch; which can be done by Windows search. It will then scan for available receivers and if your neighbour is lucky will get their television instead. It then has to synch, as you would expect. Then the receiver details a PIN this will need to be entered onto the WiDi device. You can also connect using Wi-Fi Maracsat which is also fairly easy.
Now I got mine to work with the HDTV with some help from a friend, but I have read the reviews elsewhere and it is clear that there are compatibility issues. Actiontec does have a good web site and also you can download the latest ScreenBeam Pro firmware from them. Some have also reported issues around distance of the device from the TV being a problem, my front room is not really big enough to cause a problem and so mine is actually working, albeit with a smaller picture and I have been unable to alter that even on my TV, so not as fab as I was hoping. It does appear to have had issues for some users but mine has not been that bad, hence my rating and it is better seeing films on the big screen rather than streamed to my tablet so all in all quite a good little; product, and to be fair it looks ok too and can be sort of hidden to one side of the TV so I feel is not a bad product at all.
This is one of those great little products that sounds good until you get it and then turns out to be ruddy marvellous. It is basically a two part product. The doorbell is really compact and can be fitted to the front of your abode. It is water proof and is powered by a dinkum little battery called a 23A 12v - which is supplied, you just have to remove the protective slip for it to be engaged.
It can be fixed with a double sided adhesive to the outside and that too comes supplied. Or for a more secure fix, there are two wall screws which are also supplied. It is also waterproof so ideal for my rubbish climate. Then there is the actual bell unit which is basically a plug attachment with the receiver attached. It just plugs into a socket and you are ready to go. Well almost as the next step I found to be the most fun, and that is choosing which of the 36 ring tones you want to hear every time someone tries to sell you unwanted double glazing or to get you to switch energy supplier. So do chose wisely, I went for a digital version of `the sound of silence' and that wore thin pretty quick I can tell you. I have ended up with a short one with someone saying something in Chinese; I haven't worked out what yet, just hope it is not offensive.
Once you have selected your tune of choice that is it. The range of the door bell to the receiver is 100 metres so unless you live in some sort of palace it should be ideal anywhere in your home and that means you can change location if say you are out the back in the garden, garage or what ever. I got a sample in exchange for an honest review and so now I must say the one down side and that is the `instructions'. They have quite clearly been translated from the original Chinese, Mandarin or Cantonese I do not know and it makes for clumsy albeit amusing reading. Here is a taster `to avoid the product device and wet, rain directly spraying, long time exposure, close to metal complexes.' Which I think means if it is in a really wet location prolonged exposure to metal parts will result in it being knackered at some point, well enough said.
But despite that little translation gripe this is still a brilliant and fun product and I absolutely love it. Fun and functional what is there not to like.
This is an indie film and shows that with a bit of originality, good acting and great camera work that you can make a good film for a fraction of a blockbuster budget. We meet a couple who are moving homes; they seem to have everything they need in a trailer and the car they are towing. We learn early on that there has been an issue regarding ‘another woman’ that has come between them, but are told no more. Then we meet a gang of ‘ruthless highway killers’. Their panache for unrestrained mayhem is shown early on.
Then chance has it that the two groups meet at an isolated diner. Not wanting to miss the opportunity for a fast buck, the gang decide to kidnap the couple. What they think is going to be an easy meal ticket turns out to be something altogether more sinister and the scene is set for a bit of a gore, splat fest with more twists than you can shake a stick at.
I did not expect anything from this, but as it started to play I was really hooked (no pun by the way). The acting is all very credible to excellent, Like Evans as the unnamed ‘driver’ has smouldering charm and malevolence in equal measures. He says at one point, ‘it’s only in mendacity that we achieve our very best’ – excellent stuff. Some of the support does try a bit too much but that does not inhibit the central plot. Director Ryûhei Kitamura is probably best known for ‘Azumi’, but has proven he can make a great film in English as well as he can his native Japanese – I would avoid his Godzilla one though, - only joking it is actually highly rated too. So for an hour and a half of gore, fun you could do a whole lot worse than giving this a go.
This is not the Jonathan King directed 2006 film 'Black Sheep', but a rather good Russian WW 2 film, here is my review from the UK release.
This film is set in 1941 Russia after the battle of Kiev (the box tells us that). It opens at a penal transit camp, where a new Major has arrived; his first job is to offer redemption to these prisoners. They are allowed to join a penal battalion. For those not familiar with how this concept worked, this was basically a death sentence, as the penal battalions were always given nasty and or suicidal missions. Surprisingly none of them volunteer.
The Major then instructs his Captain to send some guards with a dozen prisoners to a nearby ammunition dump - they are to destroy it to prevent it falling into the hands of the rapidly advancing Germans. So far so good, on the way they are attacked by German fighter bombers, and in the chaos, seven escape. There are two main characters, `Father' who is the nominal leader of the convicts, and `Picasso' so called because of his love of painting. He is a shadowy figure who says he knows of a hamlet that is not on any maps. They can make it to his aunt's house and hole up there.
His aunt is not there and appears to have been arrested for spying. Without doing any plot spoilers, they then discover she is incredibly well stocked up on food and ammunition.
Enter the Nazis; they too seem to know of the existence of the hamlet and the aunties house. They have parachuted behind the lines and are a nasty bunch. The Major has now seen Picasso's prison file and decides everything must be done to get him.
That is the scene setting for the crux of the film. The convicts are now faced with two enemies and have to decide what to do. This is a well directed (Sergey Chekalov) and acted film. It gets a bit confusing if you don't pay attention as the battle lines are some what blurred. The clothing and arms are very authentic, and the supporting cast all do a good job. It does have some action, but not throughout. This though is one of the better films that has come out of Russia of late and should be praised for tackling a unique part of WW2 in a different way. In Russian and German with good subtitles and a run time of 119 minutes, hard to compare it to other films, but if you like `Star' you will probably find this one appealing too.
It is quite unusual to come across a piece of film making that owes so little to what has gone before, it has to be absolutely unique. This is essentially a documentary about the Indonesian killing squads from the 1960’s and what they did, but with them re-enacting their deeds.
The ‘gangsters’ are all Hollywood movie fans and so Director and visionary Joshua Oppenheimer invites these men to make their own films about what they did. They can use any medium they like. So we have exotic dancers emerging from the mouth of a wooden fish building. Actors parading in front of a waterfall pretending to be in heaven and a re-enactment of a village massacre, to name but three. Plus the obligatory scenes of torture and execution, with some bizarre make up in places. I do not know how he got these men to talk about what they did or to show in such graphic detail.
I often make notes if I am going to write a review, normally only a few sentences, but I wrote two pages on this. The main guy is Anwar Congo who shows us his Hollywood inspired garrotting and dyes his hair especially for the re-enactments. They all talk with disarming frankness about their crimes insisting that they, as gangsters, were always going to be better than communists.
They ignore the contradiction with Islam being into drugs, alcohol, mass murder etc. They still extort the ethnic Chinese and were content to be filmed doing this. They strut around with impunity and some of the scenes they get people to act for them and they all seem to be genuinely terrified, especially the children. One of them keeps dressing up as his women victims in a grotesque parody of what really must have taken place. There is some remorse but to say too little, too late, is obviously not enough. They experience a tiny fraction of what they did to others and claim to be able to empathise, until its pointed out that they know they are not going to be actually tortured to death.
So ‘meet the killers’ would be a good alternative title, but I was left moved, disturbed and horrified in equal amounts and yet still amazed that this could all be true. An astonishing accomplishment that anyone seriously interested in film should see. It has haunted me since seeing it and I have been telling everyone about it. This ranks in my top five most disturbing films and the others are all fiction, this was sadly real.
This is a film that will make you think, maybe reaffirm unconscious stereotypes or prejudices and possibly question your liberalism, or that might just be me. Based on the real life accounts of an all black boy ‘crew’ who mugged other children on around 40 occasions in 2006 - 2008. They used the ‘little’ brother’ scam, saying that the phone the other kids had was one of their ‘little brothers’ and then using the whole group to act good cop, bad cop and eventually fleece their younger and less numerous victims of what ever they could get away with.
The shots are all static; it takes a while for you to notice; the action all takes place within a single framed shot, often with action taking place outside of the camera but with all the main events happening in the actual frame. It sounds disconcerting but actually adds to the sense of voyeurism and the documentary feel as sometimes dialogue is either muffled or over lapped. The entire scenes seem to have been done in one take which must have been challenging; little John Ortiz playing John is particularly good, but all of the young actors put in excellent performances.
Music is minimal but when used it works to great effect, the Native American dancers and singers being particularly wonderful. Some shots or even whole scenes seem disjointed but I think that is because the whole film is a collage conveying messages about immigration, racism and the aforementioned stereo types. It is a hard watch in places as the little kids are bullied, but they do make it seem very real. In Swedish and a running time just shy of two hours it is not an ‘enjoyable’ film, but it will stay with you and it will, probably, make you think.
Eva is the only girl in a family of boys and is a one of those girls who has yet to blossom and is hence shunned by the `it girls' at school, and seems to be universally ignored by her family - parents included. She announces that as part of their student exchange programme she will be having a German student staying for two weeks - but they don't bother listening
So Veit turns up without fanfare and immediately makes an impact. He is good looking with an angelic smile, a vegetarian, he does charity work in Africa and has already travelled widely at a yung age - and he is a meditation specialist and ornithologist as well as having perfect English - its enough to make anyone sick, with envy. Well all the girls fancy him and Eva's brother Manual takes a righteous dislike to him as he is seen clearly as major competition.
Well he weaves his charm and soon has the entire family questioning themselves and all start to reinvent their lives and like all rebirths it can only be painful. Eva meanwhile can't help her emotions and is falling deeply under his thrall.
This is a wonderful film. I received a copy from Film Movement for review purposes and it is the best I have seen this year from them which is saying a lot as they have all been good to excellent. It is in Dutch, a bit of German and a lot of English and all with good subs where and if needed. This has a down to earth charm, satire and humour all wrapped up in a film that is directed (Michiel Ten Horn) and acted superbly - simply can not recommend highly enough and it also has two extra short films from the same director, so not only a fantastic main feature but two extras making this unmissable.