David Knights' Weblog

January 11, 2020

Movie review: 1917 (2019)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 10:22 pm
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Short version: Go see it.  Right away.

OK, longer version.  This is an amazing piece of film-making. The story is straightforward.  Two British soldiers in WWI are tasked with crossing ground recently occupied by the withdrawing German army to reach a unit that is about to attack into a trap.  They carry orders cancelling the attack.  To add to the drama, one of the two soldiers has a brother in the unit they are trying to reach in time to cancel the attack.

Through some digital trickery the film is shot as a single continuous tracking shot.  This has the effect of making the viewer feel as if they are on the journey with these two soldiers.  The tension builds throughout the film, with several twists which add to the story.  The uniforms, equipment and sets are amazing.  I can’t praise this film highly enough.  Nothing I can tell you will do it justice.  I will say that I think it is one of the best portrayals of a soldier’s experience that I have ever seen in a movie.  The film is greatly aided by several well known actors in small supporting roles.

5 stars.  Go see this film.

January 3, 2020

Movie review: Unknown Soldier (2017)

Filed under: General,Modeling — dknights @ 4:00 am
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Previously I viewed Winter War, a Finnish film that told the story of the Winter war between Finland and the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1940.  I followed that film up with another film from Terry’s Movie Vault; Unknown Soldier.  This movie follows a Finnish machine gun company thru the Continuation War, which is what the Finns call the War Between Finland and the Soviet Union from 1941-1944.  The book is based on a novel of the same name that is considered THE novel of this period in Finnish history.  This is the 3rd film based on the novel to be made in Finland.  When it was made in 2017, it was the most expensive film ever made in Finland.

The money spent shows.  The film has wonderful sets, and the cinematography of the beautiful Finnish countryside is dramatic and wonderful.  The uniforms and props are very detailed and appear to be period correct.  The fact that the film had a big budget (at least big for a Finnish film) shows in the film.  Its look is indistinguishable from any Hollywood release.

Unknown Soldier

While I don’t want to give away the entire plot, the film basically follow this

machine gun company from the start of the Continuation War in 1941 thru their recapture of the land lost in the 1939-40 war and then into the Soviet Union proper and their capture of a Soviet city.  Then the unit digs in, WWI style and spends 2 years holding their ground and beating off Soviet probes.  Finally the Soviets, having gotten the Germans in hand, devote resources to the Finnish front and go on to recapture the territory lost in 1941.  With the Soviet assault, we get to see a T-34/85 and a couple of T-34/76s used in the film and they appeared to be authentic.

The film is well acted with the members of the machine gun company consisting of archetypes; the grizzled veteran, the idealistic young officer, the comedian, and so on.  The characters will be instantly recognizable to any viewer who has seen US war films.  The film is in Finnish and has only subtitles.  There isn’t a dubbed version.  While subtitles don’t both me, they do both some viewers and it can become tiresome reading them over the films entire 3 hour length.  Finally, there are some moments in the movie where you can tell that there is something that is referred to is culturally significant and would be easily understood by a Finnish moviegoer, but is lost on one who doesn’t have the Finnish cultural background.

It is a long movie, but worth watching, especially for the cinematography, scenery and Finnish army equipment details.  4 out of 5 stars.

December 1, 2019

Movie review: The Winter War (1989)

Filed under: General,Modeling — dknights @ 11:05 pm
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Welcome to Terry’s movie vault.  Dr. Terry Hill has the most extensive collection of war films and war documentaries (including many foreign films) I’ve ever seen.  From time to time Terry lends me some of the better films.  This film, The Winter War (Talvisota in Finnish) is a Finnish film about the 1939-1940 winter war between Finland and the Soviet Union.  As you would expect, the film is in Finnish, with English subtitles.

The film revolves around two brothers, who are part of a reserve unit called up in anticipation of the coming war.  There are several subplots revolving around members of the unit.  In structure it is very reminiscent of US war films of the 50s and 60s. As far as the acting goes, it is hard to judge the quality of acting in many foreign films. It is amazing how cultural acting is and how it varies from country to country.

Now, for us modelers, the main area of interest in any war film is the combat sequences.  The ones in this movie are pretty good.  It is amazing how much the Winter War resembled WWI with massed hordes of Russians charging entrenched Finnish positions.  There are several T-26 style tanks that appear in the film and hordes of Soviet troops in full battle dress. (I’d love to hear Mike Baskette’s commentary on this)

The film is 2 hours and 5 minutes in length.  It drags a bit in spots, but overall it is a very good film.  Well worth watching. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

November 14, 2019

I want to see this movie

Filed under: General — dknights @ 9:25 am
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The previews look great.  It is an amazing story.

November 7, 2019

Movie review: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 2:35 am
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Reviewing this movie is ridiculous.  It is acknowledged to be one of the greatest films ever made.  And it is.  This is just one of the best films ever made.  Every shot, every piece of dialogue is just amazing.  It was John Huston’s first film as director and he obsessed over it.  It shows.  Perfect cast, perfect script, perfect direction and cinematography.  I have watched it 5 or 6 times and it is just amazing each and every time.  There isn’t anything that isn’t flat out amazing.  If you have never seen it, you should. One of the many things of note is that thought the film was shot in 1940, there is no hint that there is a war going on in Europe.

And I want this for my desk.

September 11, 2019

War films

Filed under: General — dknights @ 12:07 am
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Here is a list of war films the writer considers “great”.  Frankly, with the exception of Apocalypse Now, I agree. (Apocalypse Now has some great scenes, but I’d argue it isn’t a great movie.)  I’d move Das Boot up from an honorable mention.

August 26, 2019

Movie review: The Dawn Patrol (1938)

Filed under: General,Modeling — dknights @ 9:37 am
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Starring Basil Rathbone, Errol Flynn and David Niven.  How can this not be good?  I hadn’t realized when watching this film that it was a remake and that the first version was in 1930.  The story covers an RAF squadron on the western front in 1916 and the horrendous losses the RAF was suffering at the time.  The theme of the strain on command of having to send men into combat knowing they are unprepared and will likely not survive even one mission and the resentment of those doing the flying and knowing what will happen to the green replacements plays out as the main tension of the film.  Frankly, it reminded me in some ways of 12 o’clock High, the WWII-set B-17 drama. (The movie, not the TV show)

Of interest to modelers, the film used actual Neiuport 28s, as well as some 1920s and 30s aircraft done up as WWI aircraft.  The distant view aerial combat sequences come from the earlier 1930 film and you can see the difference in the film quality even though there was only an 8 year time difference.

Four of Five stars.  Well worth watching.

August 19, 2019

Movie review: It Came from Outer Space (1953)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 9:18 am
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Have I mentioned that one of my favorite channels is Turner Classic Movies (TCM)?  I am sure I have.  On Saturday nights they run classic noir films and 50s and 60s sci-fi films.  I recorded this one on the DVR for later viewing.  The main reason I recorded it is that the screen play is based on a Ray Bradbury short story.  Unlike a lot of 50s sci-fi, the aliens aren’t a stand in for the commies.  Rather, the are portrayed as physically hideous creatures that are peaceful and arrived by accident and just want to repair their ship and leave.  Like many of these aliens crash to earth films, the action takes place in the rural southwest. (Sand Rock, AZ)  I wonder if many of these films were set in the southwest due to the Roswell incident.

This is one of the first films staring the lovely Barbara Rush, and if you pay attention, you”ll see one of the survivors of a later boat accident that led to a stranded passengers and crew.  While not high art, and not even the best of its era, it is an enjoyable film. Two and a half out of five stars.

July 30, 2019

Movie review: Master and Commander (2003)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 6:53 am
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While I had seen bits and pieces of this film from time to time, a recent modeling session and the purchase of the DVD finally led me to see the whole film.  It was worth it.  I am a fan of Crowe and I have heard a lot of good things about the books in the series that this movie was based on.  The movie was excellent.  It was well paced and really gave a feel for life in the age of sail.  The action scenes are compelling, well-paced and well shot.  The films was a small success at the box office when released, but not enough of one that the hoped-for sequels were made.  This is a shame.  It seems that all we get out of Hollywood is superhero movies these days, when movies like this would be much more compelling IMHO.  The movie did win two minor Oscars.  Four and a Half out of Five stars.  See it.

 

July 19, 2019

Take. My. Money!

Filed under: General — dknights @ 9:52 am
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Shut up and TAKE MY MONEY!

 

 

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