Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines has one good idea: put cities on wheels. The rest of the movie is a succession of clich├ęs.

Humanity has nearly destroyed itself in the equivalent of a global nuclear war. What remains of Western civilization are bandits and imperialists. In the East, peace-loving people thrive behind the protection of an enormous wall. Angry girl Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) eventually mellows and falls in love with well-intended but naive boy Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), who together avert doomsday at the last minute.

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The second Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald, takes us to Paris in 1927 at the height of the Jazz Age.

As the title suggests, the movie continues to feature the plans of Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), the greatest dark wizard of his time. While he is featured, their paths cross and we do see him plot, the movie equally revolves around the personal adventures of Newt (Eddie Redmayne), his friends and other characters, separately from what Grindelwald is getting up to.

If you haven’t seen the first Fantastic Beasts movie but are familiar with Harry Potter, you might be a tiny bit confused at some points, but not so much that you can’t follow the storyline. If you are wholly unfamiliar with the Wizarding World universe, however, the movie be more confusing. But I wouldn’t say you won’t be able to enjoy it.

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Alita: Battle Angels

Alita: Battle Angel

The cyberpunk adaptation of the beloved manga is definitely a step up from many other anime adaptations we’ve seen. With names such as Christopher Waltz and Jeniffer Connely, you know that at least the cast is strong and there to support the story.

You don’t have to be familiar with the setting of Alita, although you may be left with some questions if you aren’t. The entire history of the setting isn’t explained very well.

All we know is there’s a post-apocalyptic war and people are scrambling to survive in a mostly mechanical city. Cyborgs are common and some kind of evil villain lives in a splendid city in the sky.

It’s all a bit Hollywood-esque popcorn entertainment with, to be perfectly fair, a run-of-the-mill action/love story.

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Ostalgie in Cinema

From Deutschland 83 to HBO’s Chernobyl, “Ostalgie” — which is what the Germans call nostalgia for the communist era — has become a trend in period and alternate-history fiction.

There are many variations of this. There is “Yugo-nostalgia” in the former Yugoslavia, Soviet nostalgia in Russia, and “Communist chic” in the West.

Here is an overview of the best productions.

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Fail Safe

Fail Safe

Fail Safe (1964) accomplishes a lot with very little. Almost the entire movie is shot on just four sets. There is no score. Many of the shots are closeups, which feels appropriate to the crisis atmosphere. The movie succeeds because it has a solid plot and solid acting from such actors as Henry Fonda, Dan O’Herlihy, Walter Matthau and Frank Overton.

Fail Safe was compared unfavorably to Dr. Strangelove when it first came out (a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis). Both show how a nuclear war might happen accidentally between the Soviet Union and the United States. Strangelove is superior, but, judged on its merits, Fail Safe is a strong entry in the Cold War genre.

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The Island at the Top of the World

The Island at the Top of the World

Back in the 1970s, the Walt Disney Company produced a series of adventure movies, some of which fit right into the steampunk genre. One is The Island at the Top of the World (1974).

The movie was co-written by John Whedon, grandfather of Joss Whedon of Buffy, Firefly and Avengers fame.

The story starts in 1907 London, where a British aristocrat is mounting an expedition to the Arctic to find his lost son. He travels there accompanied by an archeologist and the aeronaut and inventor as well as captain of the airship that is taking them there: the Hyperion.

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Iron Sky: The Coming Race

Iron Sky: The Coming Race

It took quite a few years, but the long-awaited sequel to 2012’s Iron Sky has landed! (Pun intended.)

The sequel takes place 29 years after the events of the first movie (our review here), which you’d have to see to understand what’s happening in the second. Considering the first is an absolute dieselpunk classic, you absolutely should if you haven’t already!

I won’t go into the plot of this movie. Suffice to say that, like the first Iron Sky, it is utterly and completely out there and I’m here for it. Old villains, old heroes, new villains, new heroes. A total sarcastic approach to non-fictional personas, dieselpunk tinkering and utter madness: it’s Iron Sky alright.

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Priest

Priest

Priest has been out for a while, since 2011 in fact, but it has aged well enough and we haven’t reviewed it before. It’s also available on Netflix.

I haven’t read the original comic, so I can’t say in how far it’s an faithful adaptation. The movie, however, combines the vampire genre, Weird West and post-apocalyptic, giving it a unique take on what we’re used from either of those three.

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The Odessa File

The Odessa File

Frederick Forsyth’s novels usually make for good movies. The Day of the Jackal (1973, our review here) and The Fourth Protocol (1987, review here) are among my favorite Cold War-era films. The Odessa File (1974) is not in the same league.

Not having read the novel, I can’t say if it’s the story or the adaptation. It sounds good on paper, though. The year is 1963. A West German journalist (Jon Voight) stumbles on the diary of a recently deceased survivor of the Riga Ghetto. He takes it upon himself to hunt down the SS officer who ran it. That brings him into contact with the famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal (Shmuel Rodensky) and ODESSA, a secret organization of former SS members.

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The Fourth Protocol

The Fourth Protocol

Frederick Forsyth’s The Fourth Protocol (1984) was turned into a movie, starring Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan, only three years after it was published. Given that the film largely follows the plot of the book, I’ll cover both in this review.

In the novel, it is the infamous British defector Kim Philby who helps draw up a Soviet plot to detonate a nuclear weapon in Britain and trigger a Labour victory. A left-wing government (Neil Kinnock had yet to defeat far-left Militant entryists at the time) would — the Russians hoped — withdraw the United Kingdom from NATO, kick the Americans out and give up the country’s nuclear deterrent.

To make it seem like an accident, the Soviets plan to smuggle in the nuclear weapon in stages, assemble it in Britain and detonate it near an American military base. This would violate the fictional Fourth Protocol to the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which supposedly banned the non-conventional delivery of nuclear weapons.

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