Category Archives: Nazi

Black Book (2007)

Does it never end?

— Ellis de Vries

Cinebanter did a show on Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book back in 2007. I thought they were talking about the Brittany Murphy movie, Little Black Book. I didn’t know that much about the film except that it’s German, has Nazis in it. I thought it was that movie that set off the YouTube meme with Hitler reacting to dumb shit, but that was Downfall. I need to see it. Anyway, back to the movie, I really enjoyed the movie.

A young Jewish woman named Rachel Steinn (Carice van Houten) is hiding out at a family barn in Nazi occupied Holland. A bomber blows up the home when she is swimming at a nearby lake. A young man, Rob (Michiel Huisman) helps her escape from the Germans to a hide out spot.

They think that they are safe when a dark figure tracks them down, Van Gein (Peter Blok) to warn them that the Gestapo will find them if they do not go into hiding. Rachel realizes that the man is part of the Dutch Resistance. They want to be a part of the resistance. Rachel needs money from her family’s attorney, W.B. Smaal (Dolf de Vries) to smuggle into liberated territory with her family.

When the family is reunited, there is an ambush by SS officers who kill every one aboard except Rachel would dives into the lake to safety. Bent on revenge, Rachel going by the name of Ellis de Vries joins the Dutch Resistance lead by Gerben Kuipers (Derek de Lint) with his son, Tim (Ronald Armbrust), Hans (Thom Hoffman), Kees (Frank Lammers), Joop (Matthias Schoenaerts), Maarten (Xander Straat) and Theo (Johnny de Mol).

After months of working at the soup kitchen the Resistance is based in, she has the chance to infiltrate the Gestapo high command by posing as a former singer wanting to take a secretary job to Ludwig Müntze (Sebastian Koch). She has to seduce the secrets out of him. Soon, she realizes that the line between professional and personal blur as she has to make a choice of which side is she on.

This movie is based on true events. I don’t know how much of it actually happened, but it seems like the movie was trying to hard to be compelling with endless amounts of twists and turns. It was like the same way Crash did for me. It had to deal with people who you thought were good turn out to be bad and vice versa. The movie was over two and half hours long. It was too much for me.

I did enjoy the actors especially Carice van Houten as the heroine. She reminded of Christina Aguilera in her “Ain’t No Other Man” phase. It was nice to see Sebastian, Thom and Carice smolder on-screen.

Judgment: A woman scorned story that needed to trim the plot twist fat.

Rating: 7.5/10

Valkyrie (2008)

I’m a soldier, but in serving my country, I have betrayed my conscience.

— Col. Claus von Stauffenberg

Since Tom Cruise is the latest person to be in the LAMB Acting School 101 this month, I thought I would revisit a movie that was largely dismissed WWII drama, Valkyrie. There was a lot bad buzz around this movie with the numerous release date changes and even the possibly of changing the title of movie. A movie about killing Hitler, it’s a no-brainer about what the ending is. This movie is something different to offer about the SS.

The film starting in North Africa during the last years of the war where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is conflicted with serving his country and standing up to the atrocities of what Hitler has done to Jews and his people. He is tries to find somebody that would rise up against the Third Reich. Just then his unit is attacked by the Allied forces.

Losing two fingers in his left hand, left eye and right hand entirely, Stauffenburg is held up in a Munich hospital where he is visited by his wife, Nina (Carice van Houten). He has to return to Berlin to await further instruction from the Fürher (David Bamber).

Meanwhile, there have already been plots to assassinated Hitler mainly with Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) trying to kill Hitler with a bomb that did not go off on the plane with him or Colonel Heinz Brandt (Tom Hollander) who unknowingly carried the package into the plan in the first place. After he botched attempt, Treschow returns to High Command to get it back. Tresckow’s co-conspirator, General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill Nighy) lets him know that their plan might be exposed when another defector is arrested. They would need another person to lead the uprising.

When Stauffenberg comes back to Berlin, he is recruited by Olbricht to lead the resistance. Stauffenberg is surprised that many people want to overthrow their tyrannical leader like Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp) who tries to find a way to destroy Hitler from the inside out.

Stauffenberg suggests that somebody should infiltrate Hitler’s inner circle. He also suggests that they initiate Operation Valkyrie, which is a plan for when Hitler is dead; the reserved army would be active to help with civil unrest. They want to stage a fake coup to arrest the SS soldiers that take over the government. As Beck said in one conversation, “This is the military. Nothing ever goes according to plan.” Truer words were ever spoken.

The rest of the movie chronicles the failed attempt to kill Hitler. This is history. Everyone knows that Hitler didn’t die until 1945. Knowing the end of the movie was a bit anti-climatic. The movie is not awful. It got a bad rap for something that was the studio’s fault.

Hearing Tom Cruise in his Americanized German dialogue was very distracting to me, except for the guy, Christian Berkel playing Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim. Was he in the same movie? He did dinner theater level acting. Just god-awful. Hearing everybody’s British accents and the lone American – Cruise – made me think that these guys were playing Nazi dress up. I couldn’t buy it all the way. At least, have some slight German accents. Oh, well.

Judgment: What’s the point? Hitler doesn’t die at the end. Oh, spoiler. Sorry.

Rating: **1/2

Dead Snow (2009)


I have heard about Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow for some time now. I wanted to see this movie so bad. It was nowhere near my local indie theater during the summer. After watching the movie, I was giddy with glee over the blood, guts and zombie killin’.

The story takes place during an Easter vacation in Øksfjord where seven friends are traveling to the cabin of Vegard’s (Lasse Valdal) girlfriend, Sara (Ane Dahl Torp). The problem is that a zombie killed her in the beginning of the film, but they don’t know that.

Vegard goes ahead of the rest of the group to warm up the cabin when the others get there. There is the med student that is squeamish of blood, Martin (Vegar Hoel) and his girlfriend, Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), the horn dog, Roy (Stif Frode Henriksen), the shy girl, Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten), the film geek, Erlend (Jeppe Beck Laursen) and the girl that drawn to him, Chris (Jenny Skavlan).

The gang hangs out in the cabin waiting for Sara to come when a stranger shows up at their door. His name is Turgåer (Bjørn Sundquist). He wants a place to get warm. As time passes, he tells the group about the legend of the area that the kids don’t know about.

Nazi soldiers called themselves “Einsatz” where stationed there to stop communiqué between the British and the Russians. Colonel Herzog (Ørjan Gamst) and his troops tortured and killed the German people that were living in the neighborhood. Near the end of the war when the Russians were on their way, the Nazis looted the villages of gold, silver, anything shiny. The villagers fought back against and had them retreat into the mountains where they likely froze to death or maybe not.

When the man leaves, the group thinks that he is just a crazy nut trying to scare them. The next morning, Vegard searches the mountainside for Sara. He comes across the tent of the guy that was at the cabin the other night. He sees that he is disemboweled. He realizes that they are not alone.

I was not excepting this to be a groundbreaking movie. I wanted to see some zombies get butchered. That’s what I got. The movie was bloody disgusting and I loved every minute of it.

There were a couple of things that bothered the hell out of me. When Turgåer was recalling the story about the evil Nazis, it felt a little unnecessary. There was also a point when Erlend finds a jewelry box that was integral to the plot. The payoff with that was a bit lame.

Judgment: I have three words for you. Zombie Nazi killin’. Come on!

Rating: ****

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

inglourious_basterds_ver9You probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin’ business; we in the killin’ Nazi business. And cousin, Business is a-boomin’.

— Lt. Aldo Raine

Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Inglourious Basterds is an homage of spaghetti westerns, film noir and subversive movies about massacring a bunch of Nazis in the past couple of decades. It is currently #192 on the Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. It was a good movie, but I had some problems with it that I will discuss in the spoiler section.

Breaking from his formula of a broken narrative, letting the audience put the pieces back together. This is a tale a group of people that want to destroy the Third Reich, thus ending WWII.

It starts when Shosanna Dreyfus’s (Mélanie Laurent) family is massacred by Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and his crew of SS soldiers. She escapes extermination through the French countryside. She assumes a different identity as Emmanuelle Mimieux, an owner of a French cinema house.

One night, she is visited by an SS soldiers named Frederich Zoller (Daniel Brühl) that is taken with her. She tries to reject his advances. She finds out that he has become a German hero by killing over 250 Allied soldiers. He has a propaganda film made about him called Nations Pride.

Frederich wants to have the premiere of the movie to be at her cinema house. Shosanna has some ulterior motives about the premiere night with her boyfriend, Marcel (Jacky Ido).

Simultaneously, the “Inglorious Basterds” headed by Lt. Aldo “The Apache” Raine (Brad Pitt) with eight other Jew vigilantes like Sgt. Donnie Donowitz (Eli Roth), Pfc. Smithson Utivich (BJ Novak), Cpl. Wilhelm Wicki (Gedeon Burkhard), Pfc. Omar Ulmer (Omar Doom) and last but not least, Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) have struck fear to the Third Reich with killing their forces and scalping them.

British officer Lt. Archie Hicox (Micheak Fassbender) has to the team up with the basterds along with double agent, German actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) to infiltrate the premiere and destroy the highest ranking officers of the Third Reich including Hitler.

This movie is made for cinema freaks. The primarily deals with people that love movies, the climax takes place in a theater. There were some obvious winks to audience.

It was more subdued than his other films. The performances were good across the board with a special mention to Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent. I thought they were terrific in the film.

There were some problems with the pacing of the film. The dialogue dragged on for a long time. A few trims could have tighten up the suspense.

Judgment: It’s not a masterpiece, but a good film all around.

Rating: ****1/2

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The Dirty Dozen (1967)


You know what to do, feed the French and shoot the Germans!

— Major John Reisman

The Dirty Dozen is a subversive take on WWII soldiers and combat. Quentin Tarantino possibly borrowed some elements of this movie for his latest effort, Inglourious Basterds, which is set to be released in August. Killing a whole bunch of Nazis is fine. If the story drags along at a snail’s pace, you don’t care about a bunch of Nazi annihilation.

Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin), a hotshot officer is assigned to head a secret operation to wipe out the upper echelon of Third Reich in one fail swoop. He has to train a dozen of criminals for a limited amount of time to be able to carry out the mission.

The premise of the story was great. It’s the execution that falls short. Some of the characters were so wacky and off-kilter that you cannot root for them in the final battle.

This movie was two and half hours long. There were instances of deja vu that the same scene played repeatedly. It felt like a chore to watch this movie. It needed some serious edits. After a while, you don’t care about the story.

Judgment: Don’t bother watching this unless you want to see criminals killing Nazis. Fast forward to the end.

Rating: **1/2

Casablanca (1942)


Here’s looking at you, kid.

— Rick

Coming in at #11 of the Top 250 of all time on IMDB. Nominated for seven Oscars, winning three; including Best Picture, Best Director for Michael Curtiz and Best Screenplay.

Casablanca is considered one of the greatest cinematic romances of all time. Highly doubt that. Not to say that it was a terrible movie. Far from that, but it wasn’t perfect.

Set in the middle of WWII in unoccupied Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is an former freedom fighter who has a famous club where all the refugees come to get away from the Nazis. His trusty pianist pal, Sam (Dooley Wilson) entertains the crowd with his songs.

One night, he receives two transit papers that were stolen from an SS officer from Ugarte (Peter Lorre). He hides them as SS officer, Major Strausser (Conrad Veidt) arrives in town to investigate where the papers are with the help of morally ambiguous Captain Renault (Claude Rains).

That very night, Rick’s former love, Isla (Ingrid Bergman) is with her companion, Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid). Both are active freedom fighters that are looking for a way to get out of Casablanca to escape to America.

Problems with the movie. The “romance” between Rick and Isla was not fully explored. There was no connection between them. It felt forced. Two beautiful people got together. No explanation. This movie should have been longer. Allowing the relationship to develop between the lovers.

Negatives aside, Ingrid was lit beautifully. Loved it. Interesting angles with the camera. Light and shadow worked perfectly.

Judgment: Gorgeous visuals, but the story could leave you high and dry.

Rating: ***1/2

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)


We’re not supposed to be friends, you and me. We’re meant to be enemies. Did you know that?

— Bruno

Everyone knows about my hang up with Holocaust movies. I think that they are done to death. No pun intended. Every year, there has to be a dozen movies about the Holocaust trying to grab an Oscar. Everyone knows that’s true. I put my feelings aside to watch writer/director Mark Herman’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Actually, this particular movie was playing at my local Landmark Theatre alongside Milk and I’ve Loved You So Long. I was standing in line to purchase my matinee ticket to Milk.  Two older gentlemen  standing behind me were also in line for the same movie. They looked at the start times and one of them talked about this movie about it was good with a sad ending. That revelation kinda spoiled the ending for me. Somewhat.

Based on the 2006 novel of the same name by John Boyne, the movie focuses on an innocent eight-year-old boy, Bruno (Asa Butterfield) that is uprooted from his life in WWII Berlin to a home in the countryside.

His father, Rafe (David Thewlis) is a SS officer that is transferred to a post in Auchwitz. Elsa (Vera Farmiga) knows that he is an officer, but she doesn’t know the extent of his duties. There are SS officers all around the house. Being so young Bruno doesn’t know what is going on around him.

Bruno is bored with the country life. One day, he sees a man in striped pajamas working around the house, Pavel (David Hayman). Bruno asks him why he is peeling potatoes. A former doctor, he helps bandage Bruno after he falls out of a makeshift swing. His family doesn’t want Bruno to associate with anyone in striped clothes, but they don’t tell him why.

His father wants Bruno and his older sister, Gretel (Amber Beattie) to have an education. The tutor, Herr Liszt (Jim Norton) comes and teaches the children Nazi propaganda. Bruno doesn’t understand what he is being taught, but Gretel takes to the lessons to transform into a Nazi sympathizer. Elsa doesn’t want her children to be taught like that.

Going into the woods in the back of the house, Bruno sees a concentration camp in the distance that he thinks is a farm with weird people in the same striped pajamas. He befriends another eight year old boy that sits alone by the electrified fence, Shmuel (Jack Scanlon). They becomes instant friends.

Every day that Bruno talks to Shmuel, he realizes some of what is happening to the people in “the farm.” He sneaks food out of the house to give to Shmuel to eat.

I was feeling lukewarm with the movie until there is a scene at the dinner table that turned the entire movie on its head. I knew that the sad ending was going to happen, but I had no idea of the magnitude it would affect me.

I have implore that Vera Farmiga is vastly underrated as an actress. She gives Oscar caliber work every movie that she is in. She was terrific as a glamourous Berlin socialite, a concerned mother and total basketcase. Wonderful work.

Lastly, I have a problem that a prisoner could walk up to the fence and now get shot. From what I heard when that couple on Oprah that met at a concentration camp would not happen, because anybody going up to the fence will be shot on sight.

Judgment: If you are looking for a movie that wasn’t made for Oscars, I would suggest this movie to you.

Rating: ****

The Reader (2008)

The Reader is a movie that has been nominated for four Golden Globe awards including Best Supporting Actress – Kate Winslet, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Drama Picture.

This film comes from the director of Billy Elliot and The Hours, Steven Daldry. I was skeptical that I would like this film and I was right. I hated it.

The movie centers around the illicit affair between 15-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross) and a train conductor, Hanna (Kate Winslet) that is twice his age that lasts for the summer of 1958. Michael reads to Hanna every time that they are together, right before they make love. Until one day, when Hanna is promoted, she leaves without telling Michael goodbye.

Eight years later, Michael, as a inspiring lawyer, he witnesses a trail of six women that are accused of killing three hundred Jewish people in a church fire during the Holocaust in 1944. Michael learns that one of the defendants is Hanna. He realizes that Hanna was an SS guard.

There are some clues that leads you to Hanna’s secret shame, the decisions that both older Michael (Ralph Fiennes) and Hanna made throughout their times together. It culminates to a scene that I didn’t understand. The motive for Hanna’s last act.

I was bored to tears during this movie. The only highlights of the film were Kate and Lena Olin who plays the daughter of the lone survivor of the tragedy. The flashbacks and forwards where godawful. That’s it.

My rating: ** stars.

Schnidler’s List (1993)

After the endless craptastic movies that I have seen over the past couple of days, I wanted to see a GOOD MOVIE. I realized that my mother has a copy of the #7 movie from IMDB 250 list, Schindler’s List on tape when it was shown on NBC back in 1997.

I sat down and watched it. Is it me or is this film terribly overrated? Okay. Before you harp on me, hear me out.

My problem with the movie is the lead character Oskar Schindler’s personality. He is an unscrupulous character that when he sees the atrocities on the Holocaust, he tries to save the Jews. I don’t buy that.

I thought that the pace at the beginning of the film was very slow. The only way that saved it was when Ben Kingsley came in.

I have seen so many Holocaust movies that I am getting sick of them. I believe that if I have seen this film when it came out in 1993, I would have thought that it was best movie ever. I think this is just my bias that Hollywood is draining the well dry. Just beating a dead horse. We get it. Holocaust, bad. Jews, good. Nazis, evil.

I will say that I loved Ben Kingsley as Oskar’s accountant, Itzhak Stern. He was wonderful. He deserved a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Liam Neeson was fine as Schindler. Ralph is Ralph. Nothing special.

The crispness of the cinematography. I loved it. It felt like a noir film. The lighting, the shadows. Great.

I just have to say that my tolerance for these movies is waning. I have seen so many that it’s like it has been done before.

Maybe the film is showing it’s age. Maybe it doesn’t hold up. That’s my opinion about this movie.

My rating: *** stars. (Up to review at a later date.)

The Counterfeiters (2007)

The Counterfeiters won the Foreign Language Film Oscar last year for Austria. The movie tells the true story of the greatest counterfeiter working for the Nazi in exchange for their lives, Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics).

This was based on the book by Adolf Burger, played in the movie by August Diehl. He worked alongside with Sally. During last months of WWII, the Nazis were secretly outsourcing Jews in Sachsenhausen to create fraudulent British pound notes and also the American dollar.

At first, I thought the movie spoiled the ending at the beginning of the film. It starts with Sally in Monte Carlo spending the “money” that he stored in a bank. He meets a woman. They spend the night together. She looks at his arm to see the prisoner number from the concentration camp. Then, he flashes back to when he was captured by a secret SS soldier, Herzog (Devid Striesow) and taken to Mauthausen.

After seeing his talent for drawing, he is taken to Sachsenhausen to head up the operation to help the Nazis. They were fed, clothed, showered while others were exterminated around them. They feel guilt that they are treated better then their follow bretheren.

It was a good movie. It wasn’t best movie I have ever seen. It beat out Mongol, which I thought it was a shoo-in to win. You have to wonder was this movie better than Mongol. I can’t answer that.

My rating: ***1/2 stars.

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