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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

Transsiberian (2008)

Kill off all my demons, Roy, and my angels might die, too.

— Jessie

Coming back from the gym on Saturday, I wanted to watch Steve Carrell’s movie, Dan in Real Life on TBS. When I was flipping through episode guide, I saw that Transsiberian was coming on at the same time on Showtime. I remember that Tassoula from Cinebanter had this movie on her top ten of 2008 list. I decided to watch this instead. I’m glad I did.

A couple that is having martial problems, Roy and Jessie (Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer) board the Transsiberian Express in Pekin, China. They just finished a six-day sister city mission by Roy’s church in the region to help the impoverished kids. This is their first trip together. They thought that they could put their turbulent home life behind them. During the numerous stops, Jessie would take pictures of the landscapes and the people that they encounter.

On one of the scheduled stops, another couple comes into their cabin, Carlos and Abby (Eduardo Noriega, Kate Mara). They said that they are coming from Japan teaching English and Spanish. Carlos is a travel nut who dragged Abby along with him non-stop for two years.

The younger adventurous couple’s tendencies rub off on Roy and Jessie. They bond over vodka in the dining car. They open themselves up with each other with their dreams of the future. Carlos tries to single out Jessie when he shows her some souvenirs in his bag.

At another layover, Roy’s obsession with trains leads him to be stranded there. Jessie doesn’t realize the fact until the train with chugging along. Jessie has a feeling that there is something not right about the couple that shares their cabin. She franticly tries to look for him from different people in Russia. Secrets are exposed, truths are revealed and the couples are thrown into chaos.

This movie is a slow burn. Try to survive for the first hour of the movie, then the movie kicks up into high gear. I can’t tell you whatever happens, because they would be a spoiler. I want you to experience that for yourself.

Judgment: If you need a good reason to see this movie, it’s Emily Mortimer. She deals with heavy material and she could handle it with ease. Absolute must-see.

Rating: ****

Wanted (2008)

Kill one, maybe save a thousand.

— Fox

Wanted was nominated for two Academy awards last Sunday for Best Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. It lost both in both categories. I was surprised that it was nominated at all.

I’m not saying that it was an atrocious movie. It was an action packed movie, but it was light on the plot.

The movie is about a wimpy account manager, Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) that is unhappy with the mundane life is recruited into “The Fraternity”, a secret society of great assassins. The leader of the group, Sloan (Morgan Freeman) introduces him to a world that he has never known. He leaves his old life behind to be a bad ass killer like his father that he has never known.

He is introduced to his handler, Fox (Angelina Jolie), who teaches Wesley the ropes about “The Fraternity”. He also meets The Exterminator (Konstantin Khabenskiy) that kicks his ass to try to toughen him up. Then, he is “healed” by The Repairman (Marc Warren) in some white goo. Lastly, Gunsmith (Common) teaches Wesley about having a clear shot of the target.

I thought that this movie was kick ass, but the plot is so stupid. I will be giving away some plot points. Be forewarned.

I have a couple of questions to ask. Wesley believes that Mr. X (David O’Hara) that was killed in the beginning of the film was his father and then it turns out that the “villain”, Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) is his real father. Thomas was born in ’62 and McAvoy was born in ’79. Think about it.

The assassins get their orders from a magical loom with binary codes. Say what?

There is the lazy screenwriting technique of having the main character do a voice-over. Why? I was surprised that Morgan Freeman didn’t do it. he is an expert at it.

This movie wass based loosely on the graphic novel by Mark Millar. The original concept of the graphic novel was not about a team of assassins. It was about a bunch of super-villains that had taken over society in 1986. A wild departure. This is the typical Hollywood watering down fringe material into a mediocre plot line.

Judgment: The movie was nothing, but a bunch of curved bullets, preposterous plot twists and a magical loom. It’s eye candy, not brain candy.

Rating: **1/2

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