The Tanks are Coming (1951)

tanksarecoming_6Starring Steve Cochran, Philip Carey, Mari Aldon, Paul Picerni, Harry Bellaver, James Dobson, George O’Hanlon, John McGuire

Directed by Lewis Seiler

Expectations: Moderate.

twostar


The Tanks are Coming is the epitome of a middle-of-the-road film (and no, that’s not intended as some dumb attempt at a tank pun… although if you laughed, I’ll take it!). This is a shame because there are a lot of great scenes of tank action that really deserve to be in a better movie. Many of the characters also show potential, but none of them ever fully realize it. So when it’s all over, and you realize that the whole she-bang is kinda mediocre, it’s more disappointing than it would normally be because you can almost see the better movie it could have been.

The plot is one of the film’s main issues, because there really isn’t one. OK, there is one, but it’s incredibly brief. Here it is… ready? A few tanks from the Army’s 3rd Armored Division (nicknamed Spearhead) attempt to bust through Germany’s Siegfried Line and into Germany. As you can see, that’s more of a general goal than it is a plot. The Tanks are Coming is largely episodic in nature, but because of the clearly defined end-goal, the episodes feel more directly connected than in a traditional episodic film. In this way it’s kinda like an adventure across the countryside in tanks (not that war should ever be considered an adventure). Anyway, this episodic structure has been done effectively in war films, but in The Tanks are Coming the elements never congeal. We’re watching these guys go through many different situations, yet everything still feels somewhat disjointed and glossed-over. For me, this frustration is further compounded by the fact that the film’s story is credited to Sam Fuller, the man I consider to be not only the master of the realistic war film, but also the episodic, survival-based war film.

Continue reading The Tanks are Coming (1951) →

Margin for Error (1943)

marginforerror_1Starring Joan Bennett, Milton Berle, Otto Preminger, Carl Esmond, Howard Freeman, Poldi Dur, Clyde Fillmore

Directed by Otto Preminger

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


Margin for Error is an interesting film for the way it handles tensions among Americans and Germans in the US during World War II, but interesting is about the kindest thing you could say about it. It’s not all that entertaining, nor does it deliver any deep message, so instead it just feels like some kind of pro-American propaganda film. The Germans are predominantly of the villainous “Sieg hiel!” variety, with the main villain sporting a monocle and doing absolutely nothing to hide his outright hatred of America, the country he’s living in and is a diplomat to. If he had a mustache you can bet he’d be twirling it like the war depended on it, too.

But before we get to this guy, Margin for Error opens on a military boat carrying a load of soldiers off to some unnamed foreign shore or WWII battle. Max (Carl Esmond), one of the soldiers, has a thick German accent. When the red-blooded American soldiers give him a hard time, Moe (Milton Berle) stops the group and tells them the story of how Max came to become an enlisted man. No, this doesn’t lead into a 1940s version of the Full Metal Jacket boot camp scenario; it’s about the intrigue that develops at the German consulate in some unnamed East Coast city.

Continue reading Margin for Error (1943) →

Video Game Review: Rambo: The Video Game (2014)

rambo-the-video-game-coverDeveloped by Teyon
Published by Reef Entertainment Ltd.

Directed by Piotr Latocha

Platform played on: PC via Steam

Expectations: I haven’t been this pumped to play a game in years.

On the general scale (considering all the “flaws”):
twohalfstar

But in terms of pure enjoyment and the amount of raw action and testosterone per minute:
fourstar


As soon as Rambo: The Video Game was announced, I was ecstatic. The trailer made the game seem like nothing but balls-to-the-walls action recreating all the kick-ass Rambo shit that Rambo did in the Rambo movies. It was seemingly going to be everything I had ever wanted a Rambo game to be, going all the way back to 1988 when I spied the cover of the Rambo NES game and imagined what treasures the game might hold. That game did not live up to my internal hype, but Teyon’s Rambo: The Video Game didn’t just live up to my huge, unrealistic expectations, it shot an explosive arrow directly into their heart and machine-gunned them as they begged for mercy.

I’ve never written a video game review before, but while playing Rambo: The Video Game I felt compelled to. The game has received negative Internet buzz and press since the first trailer dropped, with people deriding the game for its animation, character models, use of quick-time events (QTEs), and even its choice to be an on-rails shooter instead of the more traditional first-person shooter. After the game’s release, this fire only seemed to grow more intense, as did my frustration with the public’s inability to see this game’s greatness.

Continue reading Video Game Review: Rambo: The Video Game (2014) →

Confirm or Deny (1941)

confirmordeny_2Starring Don Ameche, Joan Bennett, Roddy McDowall, John Loder, Raymond Walburn, Arthur Shields, Eric Blore, Helene Reynolds, Roseanne Murray, Stuart Robertson, Queenie Leonard, Jean Prescott, Billy Bevan

Directed by Archie Mayo

Expectations: Moderate.

threestar


Confirm or Deny is an interesting film because it’s so unique. It’s hard to classify as it’s kind of a thriller, it’s kind of romantic, and it also has an almost fly-on-the-wall, documentary-like feel in its depiction of the war correspondents working in London during The Blitz, a series of Nazi air raids on British cities during World War II. These air raids happened from September 1940 to May 1941, so with a release date in December 1941, Confirm or Deny was also quite the topical film.

The original draft of the story was written by Sam Fuller and star journalist Hank Wales (who, according to Fuller, was the basis for the Hitchcock film Foreign Correspondent). The two newsmen caught wind of the Associated Press offices getting bombed during the Battle of Britain, so they decided to write a film about newsmen doing everything in their power to get the news out despite these incredible, extraordinary circumstances. The finished film reflects a lot of this general feeling, although like all of Fuller’s early scripts, the studio heavily re-wrote Confirm or Deny to fit their desires more closely. I’m guessing they added the romantic angle, as it really doesn’t fit at all, nor is it very believable or romantic.

Continue reading Confirm or Deny (1941) →

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

allquietonthewesternfront_1Starring Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, Owen Davis Jr., Walter Rogers, William Bakewell, Russell Gleason, Richard Alexander, Harold Goodwin, Slim Summerville, G. Pat Collins, Beryl Mercer, Edmund Breese

Directed by Lewis Milestone

Expectations: Moderate. I’m not too excited to watch this for some reason.

fourstar


All Quiet on the Western Front is a remarkable film for its day, and it’s one that still holds up impressively well today. It is a war film that contains everything you could possibly want in one: battles, boot camp, camaraderie, patriotism, disillusionment, the list goes on. The film opens on the patriotic high of classmates enlisting for their country’s greater good, spurred on by the rousing words of their professor, and it eventually works its way through the war to a very natural and emotional anti-war ending.

Set during World War I and focusing on the German side of the struggle, All Quiet on the Western Front is largely plotless and driven simply by the various episodes and struggles the characters go through. There’s no grand goal for them to achieve; the film doesn’t even attempt to convey the context of the war and which side is which. This one is specifically from the point of view of the enlisted man, the man who must die for his country and who stands to gain nothing more than the right to go back to his life if he survives the war.

Continue reading All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) →

The 14 Amazons (1972)

14amazons_1The 14 Amazons [十四女英豪] (1972)

Starring Ivy Ling Po, Lisa Lu, Lily Ho Li-Li, Yueh Hua, Fan Mei-Sheng, Wong Chung-Shun, Lo Lieh, Tien Feng, Wang Hsieh, Shu Pei-Pei, Wang Ping, Lau Ng-Kei, Karen Yip Leng-Chi, Li Ching, Tina Chin Fei, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Wong Gam-Fung, Betty Ting Pei, Teresa Ha Ping, Chen Yan-Yan, Lin Jing, Bolo Yeung, Goo Man-Chung, James Nam Gung-Fan, Tin Ching, Paul Chun Pui, Yeung Chi-Hing, Cheng Miu, Chung Wa

Directed by Cheng Kang

Expectations: Very high. This is one of the greats, right?

fourstar


The 14 Amazons is a true Shaw epic, bringing together a large ensemble cast and a well-known, classic Chinese tale just like The Water Margin had done a few months earlier in 1972. The two films are epics of different proportions, though, and feel almost nothing alike. Where The Water Margin is a small slice of a larger tale (and it feels it), The 14 Amazons feels meatier and more contained (even though it is also part of a larger story). But to compare the two films is wrongheaded, as they complement each other instead of being in competition.

The 14 Amazons is based on the Generals of the Yang family group of stories that have been passed down through Chinese culture since as early as the 11th century. The film specifically tells the story of how the Yang family defended the western Song borders from the invading barbarians from Western Xia. We open on the battlefield as Commander Yang Tsung Pao (Chung Wa) is wounded and cornered without many options. Understanding his fate, he sends two of his generals, Chiao Ting Kuai (Fan Mei-Sheng) & Meng Huai Yuan (Wong Chung-Shun), to travel home to inform his family of his death and to ask for more troops to be sent to the border. They comply against their wishes to stay and help him, and here the film introduces us to the titular female characters.

Continue reading The 14 Amazons (1972) →

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

returnoftheking_1Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, John Noble, Bernard Hill, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, John Rhys-Davies, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, David Wenham, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Paul Norell, Lawrence Makoare, Sarah McLeod

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: High. I love this.

fourstar


Can I give this one five stars? It took 10 years and more than a few re-watches, but I have finally come around on this one. Don’t get me wrong, I always loved the film, but I also always thought it was the weakest of the trilogy. This time I was struck by how powerful a film Return of the King is, and how well it brings everything set forth in the previous films together. But what this recent change of heart proves to me is that there is no truly standout film from the others. They are all interdependent and equal in their greatness, and I will most likely shift allegiances between the three throughout my lifetime.

Opening with Gollum’s backstory provides us with a glimpse of how he became the creature we’re familiar with, and it also allows the film to open in the quiet green of the Hobbit lands. The Two Towers ends with a lengthy battle sequence at night, finishing a film that contains trial after trial for our fellowship. So to begin the next film in a peaceful, happy place (if only for a few moments) is surprising and brilliant. It reminds us a bit of what the hobbits are fighting for, and shows us the depths of despair, all within that first scene. It also skillfully leads us right back into the thick of things where we can finally reckon with the one ring and finish the journey once and for all.

Continue reading The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,593 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages