The past year has seen a rash of films dealing with the Holocaust. This week alone there are two releasing on DVD, while Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds continues to rampage at the cinemas. Of them all, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has proved to be one of the more contentious.
For some audiences and reviewers this is a moving and affecting story about a dark period in modern history as seen through the eyes of a child. For others, it is an insulting, sanitised and trivialised account of remembered horrors. The internationally best-selling novel of the same name, on which it is based, has faced similar attacks.
The movie tells the story of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a concentration camp commandant, who befriends a young Jewish boy; a prisoner in his father’s camp. The friendship that builds between the two boys through the camp’s fence, and Bruno’s gradual understanding of his father’s day job, form a kind of parable.
For much of this film, there is a prevailing innocence. However, the subject manner and the slap-in-the-face ending earns this film a well-deserved M rating, meaning it may not be for the everyone.
Consensus: A touching and haunting family film that deals with the Holocaust in an arresting and unusual manner, and packs a brutal final punch of a twist.
The true story on which this movie is based is an inspiration. It tells of the Bielski brothers who flee to the forest to escape the Nazis only to become leaders and protectors to over a thousand Jewish refugees. They defend and shelter the lost and helpless against both Nazi sweeps and the bitter winter that descends upon the Belarus Forest.
Sadly, director Edward Zwick didn’t think his audience would understand how great a feat this was, so decided to slam home every single plot point and speech with an inspirational sledgehammer.
Beneath the dogmatic direction, however, lurk some very powerful performances. Most notably Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, the brother who wants to keep everyone alive by lying low in the forest and waiting out the war and his brother Zus, played by Liev Schreiber who would rather go all Inglourious Basterds on the Nazis’ ass and fight back with the Russian resistance. The struggle between these two men is one of the film’s great strengths.
The other great strength is that it is true; a fact that is brought home at the end when we are shown photos of the individuals who inspired this dramatisation.
Defiance is heavy-going and violent and the ongoing conflict between survival and revenge is hard work. However, the story of human strength and the extent to which people can adapt to almost immeasurable hardships is a good one.
And if you are still hopped up from Tarantino’s ultimate Nazi revenge flick, this will tide you over until Inglourious Basterds is available on DVD.
Consensus: Professionally made but artistically uninspired, Ed Zwick’s story of Jews surviving WWII in the Belarus forest lacks the emotional punch of the actual history
HBO is responsible for producing some of the highest quality television series of recent years, but none quite as cool as Entourage. .
It is loosely based on the early career of executive producer Mark Wahlberg and his experiences as an up-and-coming movie star in LA. Wahlberg is the inspiration for character Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), a young movie star who has brought his brother and closest childhood friends with him for his Hollywood ride.
Chase’s manager and best friend, Eric ‘E’ Murphy (Kevin Connolly) is said to be an amalgam of the show’s other executive producer, Eric Weinstein and Wahlberg’s real life manager, Stephen Levinson. Vincent’s brother and chef, Johnny ‘Drama’ Chase (Kevin Dillon) is based on Johnny ‘Drama’ Alves, Wahlberg’s real-life cousin and ‘Turtle’ (Jerry Ferrara) is modelled on Wahlberg’s original assistant Donnie ‘Donkey’ Carroll.
For many fans of the show, this writer included, the real star is foul-mouthed, tough-as-nails with a heart-of-gold agent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). Ari Gold is a characterisation of Wahlberg’s agent, Ari Emanuel.
For most of the show’s run, Vincent and his boys have led a charmed existence. The move from New Jersey to California has been smooth. The cars and girls are hot and life is sweet. Season 5, however, sees a few cracks appearing in their perfect lives, as Vincent’s career, and wallet, hits a roadblock. Vince’s passion project from the previous season, Medellin, has bombed and the work isn’t flowing as it once did. Also, his relationship with E is under strain. It isn’t all bad, however, as Drama’s career is on the rise and Turtle finds himself falling for a high-profile actress.
They saved the cheerleader and saved the world but these ordinary people who woke up one day with extraordinary abilities are still fighting for their lives.
Watching Heroes is like seeing your favourite childhood comic come to life. It has the aesthetic vibrancy and colour of a graphic novel, combined with super-hero adventure.
Season 2 of Heroes was affected by the writers’ strike, meaning that it ended rather abruptly after only 11 episodes but Season 3 presents a full-length 25 episode season. Whereas Seasons 1 and 2 focused on the heroes, and their fight against the evil Sylar, Season 3 is all about the bad-guys. Villains are aplenty this time around and the pace is definitely faster than the slow-build second series.
One of the great successes of Heroes is the casting. Sendhil Ramamurthy as scientist Mohinder Suresh, Hayden Panettiere as the rejuvenating cheerleader, Milo Ventimiglia as Peter Petrellie, the man with innumerable super powers, and Masi Oka as the adorable, time and space bending Hiro Nakamura, are each charismatic and believable in this distinctly unbelievable show. A standout, however, is Zachary Quinto as Sylar, an evil watchmaker with one hell of a chip on his shoulder.
For those of you who skipped this show because you are not a sci-fi fan, or you tuned out when they started messing around with the television time-slot, this is a well-written, entertaining, award-winning television series and definitely worth the rental.