Monday, March 09, 2009

Monday At the Movies

Monday's Movie hosted by Sher at A Novel Menagerie

I have not been able to get to the movies recently, but I did watch a few on DVD in recent weeks. I thought I would offer you a few mini reviews today.

Movie: The Counterfeiters
Genre: ‎Foreign, Drama, War
MPAA Rating: R
Directed By: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Writers: Adolf Burger (book) & Stefan Ruzowitzky (screenplay)

I had first heard about The Counterfeiters about a year ago when it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. It is an Austrian film based on a true story about a man, Salomon (Sali), who was arrested in the late 1930's for forgery. He was in the process of preparing a fake passport for a Jewish woman seeking to escape Nazi Germany.

Sali ends up being sent to a concentration camp where he is housed alongside fellow criminals, Jewish people, and other victims of the Nazi regime. He puts his talents and wits to use in order to survive while those around him are not always so lucky. Sali is eventually moved to yet another concentration camp where his skills as a counterfeiter are in much demand. He is assigned to "Project Bernhard," which is designed to destabilize the economies of the United States and Great Britain by printing counterfeit money. The prisoners assigned to the project face a moral dilemma: do they go along with the plan for survival's sake or do they fight back through refusal or sabotage? It is not an easy choice and as events play out, it is clear that the decisions they make weigh heavy on their shoulders.

Karl Markovics plays the part of Sali, and he does a magnificent job in the role. He is tough and hardened, seemingly out to save only himself, and yet his actions toward others he meets along the way make him a natural leader, someone they trust and respect. The arresting officer who later reappears as the Nazi officer leading the project, Sturmbannfuhrer Friedrich Herzog, is played by Devid Striesow. Striesow takes a despicable man and adds a bit of vulnerability to the character making him almost, just almost, sympathetic during parts of the movie.

The Counterfeiters proved to be an interesting and thought provoking film. Sali may not be the most likable of protagonists, but his story is worth telling. I would recommend this film to those with an interest in World War II and Holocaust stories.

Movie: Eagle Eye
Genre: ‎Action, Mystery, Thriller
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Directed By: D.J. Caruso
Writers: John Glenn, Travis Wright, Hillary Seitz, & Dan McDermott

Eagle Eye is a fast paced action movie that proved perfect for an afternoon when I couldn't concentrate on much and lying on the couch was about all I felt up to doing. It is one of those movies that makes for fun brain candy. Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan play the leads; they are two strangers who are forced together by a voice on their cell phones who orders them to follow the instructions given to them or dire consequences will follow. Michelle's character, Rachel, fears for the safety of her young son, while Jerry, Shia's character, fears for his own life. The two have no idea who is giving them the orders nor do they know the plan in which they play a part. They know they are being asked to do something terrible, however.

I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would. It was fun and entertaining. However, I do have two minor complaints. I was disappointed in discovering who was pulling all the strings, a strictly personal bias of mine in regards to any film of this sort, and I think the movie could have ended sooner than it did. Explaining either of these in more detail would only serve to spoil the movie, I'm afraid. Still, I enjoyed the film. It served its purpose in the moment, and I am glad I took the time to watch it.

Movie: Tropic Thunder
Genre: ‎Action Comedy
MPAA Rating: R
Directed By: Ben Stiller
Writers: Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux & Etan Cohen

My husband and I sat down to watch Tropic Thunder one evening: he was excited to finally see it, me reluctant. Comedy films and I do not often get along, particularly these types of films. I was curious though. Robert Downing Jr. had gotten so much praise playing an Australian actor playing a black man and Tom Cruise was getting accolades for his performance as the overweight movie producer. I figured I should at least see what all the fuss was about.

For those who do not know, Tropic Thunder is about a film crew filming a Vietnam War movie. Everything that could go wrong with the film does. As a last resort, the actors are purposefully (unbeknowdst to them, however) stranded in the middle of the jungle in an effort to get some decent footage for the film, only to find themselves tangling with local drug dealers. The movie stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr, Nick Nolte, and Matthew McConaughey, among others. Tropic Thunder is a Hollywood parody and pokes fun at just about everyone and then some.

My husband enjoyed it quite a bit. I found it funny at times and did enjoy Robert Downey Jr.'s performance; however, I was underwhelmed when the final credits began to roll.

Sandy tuned me into The Bumbles Blog and their Movies Monday Meme. I thought I would try my hand at playing along.

This week's movie topic is all about Documentaries . . .
There is an awful lot of Reality T.V. out there these days. But we all know that the "Real World" is far from reality. That is what Documentaries are for and we are big fans. They can make you laugh or cry, angry or sympathetic - but they all serve to educate. Here are some that we encourage you to check out. Educate us about some of your favorites!
I am ashamed to say that my memory is quite poor in this area. My experience with documentaries is limited, and it has been awhile since I last sat down and watched one. Two documentaries that made an impression on me that immediately come to mind are Bowling for Columbine, which takes on the issue of gun violence in the United States, and the other is Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, the story of the 10,000 children who were transported to Great Britain from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia during the late 1930's, where the children were fostered and cared for during the Second World War. Both documentaries were eye openers, touching my heart, making me angry, and offering me insight into topics I did not know much about before.

Another one that comes to mind is March of the Penguins which I found fascinating. The documentary is about the migration of the Emperor penguins from the ocean to their mating and breeding place in Antarctica. The penguins survive through unbelievably harsh conditions. Their story is an amazing one. If you haven't seen this one, I highly recommend it.

What about you? Do you have a favorite documentary?


  1. Wow, you have a fun-filled post this morning! I loved The Counterfeiters. I tend to be drawn to both foreign film and ones dealing with WWII. I also really enjoyed Tropic Thunder. It was the first time I'd watched a laugh-out-loud funny movie in quite a while. Comedy is a funny thing with the wrong mood, I'm just annoyed! I found Downey Jr.'s performance amazing, and Cruise made me laugh.

    I've not seen the second doc you mention, but I'm a doc-o-phile, so I'll have to put it in my Q. It sounds fascinating! I love docs primarily because I find that reality is better than anything made up!

  2. We saw Tropic Thunder when it came out last summer, and I remember my comment to my husband at the time: "If there's a fine line between clever and stupid, this was on the wrong side of it too often." Having said that, parts of it were hilarious, and Robert Downey Jr. was great.

    I sometimes read about documentaries that sound interesting, but I rarely end up seeing them.

  3. I haven't seen any of the movies, but added The Counterfeiters to my Netflix queue! I already had Tropic Thunder there!

    As for documentaries - Bowling for Columbine is one of the first I thought of. I also enjoyed March of the Penguins - it was great to watch!

  4. Such nice reviews and synopsis you have provided! I have never heard of "The Counterfeiters" or "Into the Arms of Strangers" - will add them both to the Netflix queue - though it doesn't sound like we should watch them back to back - unless we mix in "Tropic Thunder" in between to lighten the mood. Thanks for playing along this week!

  5. I had never heard of Counterfeiters before today! Thanks for the might just go along with that WWII reading I'm supposed to be doing.

    I liked Tropic Thunder well enough, and Eagle Eye was ok...and I totally agree with the parts you are referring to...the movie could have been shorter!

  6. Well, I have never heard of any of the movies that you watched... I am so out of touch when it comes to movies!

  7. I liked Eagle Eye (I haven't gotten around to reviewing it yet) but I too was disappointed when I learned who it was.

    My favorite documentary isn't going to surprise anyone. It's Walt: The Man Behind the Myth and its of course about Walt Disney.

  8. I liked the Counterfeiters; it was fascinating but grim and not that Holocaust movies have to be uplifting, but I felt like it needed a little something more. It was good though. :)

  9. Once I understood the opening 'credits' I loved Tropic Thunder, but I usually like Ben Stiller.

  10. Hi Wendy! I enjoyed Eagle Eye too although it was quite predictable. The action made up for it. :)

    I really ought to watch more movies because they're really fun!

    Have a great week ahead!

  11. I want to see Eagle Eye, so I am glad to see that it is decent.

  12. I really enjoyed this post as you've given me some new titles to get from the library for over the weekend viewing!!

  13. I haven't seen any of those except March of the Penguins. It's such a great documentary that I'd highly recommend this to anyone! And the best thing is, my four-year-old daughter loved it too! ;)

  14. I felt the same way about Eagle Eye. It seemed familiar.

    As for documentaries, the CBC had a series on obsessions. I liked Chocolate and Shoes. They were a lot of fun and I learned a lot!

  15. I loved Eagle Eye but action films are my cup of tea. Plus that Shia Labouf (I might have spelt that wrong) is such an interesting actor I am enjoying the movies he is in.

    Tropic Thunder I felt was actually a little boring, and Ben Stillar actually annoyed me in it. I usually dont mind him but in this film, I dont know something did not gel for me.

  16. I want to see Tropic Thunder because I heard that Tom Cruise was good in it. But, I did hear that the movie fell flat.

    Thanks for doing Monday's Movie.


  17. The Counterfeiters is actually an Austrian film.

    I liked Tropic Thunder. Not all of it, but I'm glad I saw it.

    I watched this year's short film oscar winner Spielzeugland (toyland) the other night and thought it was amazing. It is only 14 minutes, so if you have the chance, you should see it!

    I also watch Lord of War about global arms sales. Depressing!

  18. The Counterfeiters does sound good. I'll have to add it to my list of movies to watch.
    I know what you mean about comedy movies, I don't get along with them very often either, especially American humour. I don't mind British or European comedies sometimes, they tend to be more subtle.

  19. Sandy - Lots of movies to talk about. :-) I really enjoy foreign films too, although I don't watch enough of them.

    Florinda - Haha! I'm right there with you in regards to Tropic Thunder.

    I don't watch many documentaries either, I'm afraid.

    Angela - March of the Penguins was really good. I can't believe what those penguins go through! I hope you enjoy The Counterfeiters when you get to it.

    The Bumbles - I hope you will enjoy both films if you do see them! They are definitely worth watching. And, yes, maybe a little something like Tropic Thunder in between would be a good idea. :-) Thank you for hosting the Monday Movie Meme!

    Serena - If you read the book its based on, I would love to know what you think, Serena. I hadn't realized it had been a book first--although I should have guessed.

    Kelly - Two of the movies were in and out of the theaters so fast, it's no wonder you didn't hear of them. I think Tropic Thunder was the only one that got a lot of attention. It was up for a few Oscars this year--not that it would matter to anyone but those of us crazy enough to be movie fans though. :-)

    Jen - You too? I see it as a cop out in a way, I guess. I look forward to reading your review of the movie!

    I'm not surprised by your favorite documentary, you're right, but I am sure it is a good one. :-)

    Marie - Yes, I think you are right about the Counterfeiters. It did seem to be missing a little something. Still, as you said, it was good.

    Elizabeth - The opening previews were funny. :-)

    Alice - I agree, it was a bit predictable, but it was entertaining. I liked the chase scenes. :-)

  20. Nicole - It may not be the best movie, but it was fun. And sometimes, that's all a person needs.

    Staci - Let me know what you end up watching and what you think!

    Melody - It's a great film and perfect for the family. :-)

    Chris - That's a good way of putting it--familiar.

    Chocolate and Shoes sounds like it would be interesting. I wonder if I can find that one . . .

    Caspette - I love action films. :-) I thought Shia LaBeouf did a good job in the film. I can't wait to see the second Transformers movie. My husband thinks I'm nuts. LOL

    Sheri - Tom Cruise definitely stepped outside of his comfort zone for Tropic Thunder. It was good to see him give something different a try.

    Lenore - Thank you for the clarification. I couldn't remember and forgot to double check before posting. It was late; I was tired . . . No excuse.

    I hope to watch Spielzeugland. I always want to watch the short film nominees every time I hear about them, but I rarely get the chance.

    Nat - I hadn't thought of my problem with comedy films to be because of the American humor, but you may have a point there. I don't seem to mind British comedies. I definitely do prefer subtle humor to humor that's thrown in my face.

  21. I remember going to see The Counterfeiters on my own, in London; I mean-- not many of my friends are interested in going to see Holocaust films in the middle of the afternoon.

    But I was absolutely blown away by the movie. Very gripping and powerful.


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