Tag Archives: Nazi movies

Chris Evans can’t save ‘Captain America’

Film review

Chris Evans stars as Captain America/Steve Rogers in "Captain America: The First Avenger" -- Paramount

In “Captain America,” the talented actor Chris Evans (shown in and out of uniform) does the best he can with the material that he was given.

Actor Chris Evans, from "Captain America", poses for a portrait at the LMT Music Lodge during Comic Con in San Diego, Thursday, July 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

Associated Press photo

“Captain America: The First Avenger” is widely said to be the best of this summer’s crop of super-hero movies. I disagree.

While better than “Thor,” which isn’t saying much, “Captain America” falls short of “X-Men: First Class.”

The best thing that “Captain America” has going for it is the charismatic Chris Evans, who engagingly played the “Fantastic 4”’s smart-assed Johnny Storm and who did a great turn in the sci-fi film “Sunshine.” Like “Sunshine,” “Captain America” isn’t worthy of Evans’ talents, unfortunately.

“Captain America” in a post-Abu-Ghraib world doesn’t woefully overdo the nauseating patriotic crap, but doesn’t give the good captain an awful lot to do that is very interesting once he finally meets and far exceeds his goal of fighting for the U.S. military against Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

In the action Captain America repeatedly loses his one-of-a-kind, impenetrable shield, which he always gets back, we quickly learn, so that trick gets old fairly fast — seriously, the character of the patriotic, skinny, sickly pre-Captain-America Steve Rogers is more interesting than is the fairly invincible hulk that he is morphed into — and the Red Skull, the villain, played by Hugo Weaving, is captivating for all of about five minutes.

True, a friend of mine who had seen “Captain America” before I did had told me that the Nazi-accented Red Skull sounds just like the Austrian-born former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and so every time the Red Skull spoke I heard not the Red Skull, but Baby Daddy Schwarzenegger, and I have wondered if maybe they’d wanted Schwarzenegger to play the role but couldn’t get him, and so they asked Hugo Weaving to do his best Schwarzenegger.

In any case, the glowing blue cube that is supposed to be the source of the Red Skull’s power is not very interesting and not very creative. I’m sick of movies in which we’re just supposed to accept some mysterious power, whether it glows a pretty blue or green. (On that note, I haven’t seen “Green Lantern,” since it roundly got shitty reviews, but just about everyone for some reason has said how great “Captain America” is, which is why I saw it.

And I don’t care that something was in some comic book first, by the way. Something works in a movie or it doesn’t, regardless of its source.)

And we’ve had plenty of movies about Nazis and about Nazis interested in occult powers — “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Hellboy” come immediately to mind. Did we really need another? The retro (World-War-II-era) look of “Captain America” is fairly cool, but didn’t we kinda already see that in the unfortunate “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”?

Tommy Lee Jones does a great job as Steve Rogers’/Captain America’s commanding officer, but it’s the same role of the cranky old man that Jones has been playing for some years now, unfortunately.

And the time-traveling twist at the end of “Captain America” is more likely to make the viewer feel a bit ripped off rather than ooohed and ahhhed — and feel way too rushed to be prepped for Captain America’s next cinematic appearance, which, presumably, will take place in the present. (Again, even if it was in a comic book first, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be good for a film.)

In a nutshell, with “Captain America” it’s been there, done that. It’s a fairly technically well done rehash, but it’s a rehash nonetheless.

Love Chris Evans. “Captain America” — not so much.

My grade: C+

P.S. The showing that I attended was in 3-D. Oops. I hadn’t even known that they’d released it in 3-D. The 3-D effects make no difference, though, as nothing comes flying at you. Not even the shield. Why they released it in 3-D, other than for increased profits, eludes me.

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‘Inglourious Basterds’ rather inglorious for a film by Quentin Tarantino

In this film publicity image released by The Weinstein Co., ...

Lead Nazi slayer Aldo Raine, played by Brad Pitt, addresses his merry band of Nazi slayers in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” one of Tarantino’s less gory — and lesser — endeavors (which at least came to us in just one part…).

As I have noted before, I think that they make way too Holocaust-themed movies. No, I’m not anti-Semitic, and no, I’m not a Holocaust denier, and it’s sad that I have to state that up front.

It’s that the Holocaust has been done.

But I’m a Quentin Tarantino fan, and so I saw “Inglourious Basterds” on its opening weekend.

I love ya, Quentin, but I can give “Basterds” only a “B.”

“Basterds” starts out promisingly. The opening scene, in which Nazis search for Jews being hidden at a French farmhouse, at first seems overlong, but then you realize that Tarantino got it just right.

And then it looks like the entire movie, or most of it, anyway, is going to be about Brad Pitt, who plays an American named Lt. Aldo Raine with a hick accent who is something like Robin Hood leading a band of merry men, only this Robin Hood and these merry men (who call themselves the “Inglourious Basterds”) don’t steal from the rich and give to the poor, but they hunt, kill and scalp — yes, scalp — Nazis in Nazi-occupied France. And most of these Nazi slayers are Jews.

But after teasing us with this novel slant on the whole Holocaust-movie thing, “Basterds” then goes into a much-less-interesting and less novel direction involving a young Jewish woman named Shosanna (well-played by Melanie Laurent) who survived the Nazis’ slaughter of her family and who plots her revenge when the premiere of a Nazi propaganda film is slated to be shown in the movie theater that she owns and operates in France.

Pitt and his band of merry Nazi killers come back into the movie, but only after we’ve been fairly bored by the whole movie-theater subplot.

Pitt does a kick-ass job in “Basterds,” as does Christoph Waltz as Nazi Col. Hans Landa, the “Jew hunter,” whose Oscar-worthy role runs throughout the entire film. It is largely on the strength of the performances that I can give “Basterds” a “B.”

Also doing a great job are Eli Roth as the “Bear Jew,” who takes a baseball bat to Nazis’ craniums, and Til Schweiger as former Nazi Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, who for some reason decided to turn on his fellow Nazi officers and start terminating them (whether he opposed their “cause” or whether he is just psychopathic is not clear to me) before he was taken in by the Basterds. I wanted to see much more of these two characters and I was disappointed to see one of them terminated too early and too ingloriously.

Also interesting about “Basterds” is Tarantino’s reinterpretation of Adolf Hitler (played by Martin Wuttke) as a perpetually fuming and sputtering tyrant hilariously (darkly so) replete with a red monarch’s cape. (Tarantino also reinterprets the history of Hitler in an interesting way that I can’t tell you about, because it would give away the ending of the movie…)

Mike Myers (yes, the “Austin Powers” Mike Myers) makes an appearance as a British general that is supposed to be quirky, I think, but is more throwaway than quirky.

Tarantino’s re-envisioned Hitler and his twisted version of Robin Hood and his band of merry men alone make “Basterds” worth seeing — and I must admit that it’s hard not to feel some amount of glee to witness Nazis being exterminated like the cockroaches that they were — but “Basterds” has too much that isn’t that interesting and doesn’t measure up to what we’re used to getting from Tarantino, so it misses an “A” for me.

Maybe the uninteresting portions of “Basterds” were Tarantino’s attempt to be a more “serious” director? If so, well, he should have stuck to what he does best. There is no shortage of “serious,” “respectable” movies about the Nazis and the Holocaust out there.

“Kill Bill,” to me, still remains Tarantino’s best work to date.

My grade: B

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GREAT: MORE Jewish ‘victimization’!

Updated below

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC ...

AFP photo

Oy vey: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., photographed above in 2003, was shot up today by some crazy old hater.

Saturday evening I remarked over a friend’s birthday dinner that they make too damned many movies about Nazis these days. Because they do: “Valkyrie.” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” “Defiance.” “The Reader.” Etc. Etc.

I didn’t say that they make too many Holocaust movies. I said too many Nazi movies. I hate Nazis and there are too damned many movies featuring them; and because of their extremeness, it’s just too easy to make Nazis your film’s villains. And is there no other topic to make movies about? And do they not make Nazi movies primarily with Oscars in mind?

But the fact that I said “Nazi movies” didn’t stop the Jewish baby boomer across the table from me from going apoplectic over my remark, as though (1) I were attacking Jews and/or minimizing (or perhaps even — gasp! — denying!) the Holocaust and (2) as though he had experienced the Holocaust himself.

I’m so fucking sick and tired of the Jewish mentality of victimhood. Too many Jews like to hit others over the head with what I call the “‘H’ club” (“H” for “Holocaust”).

You (the non-Jew) are supposed to feel immediately horrible about yourself in the presence of someone who is the descendant of someone else who suffered horribly some 65 to 75 years ago.

And hell, you don’t even have to have had an ancestor who suffered in the Holocaust to be able to claim victimhood by proxy. You just have to be Jewish.

And hell, I don’t think that you even have to have been born Jewish; I think that you even can be just a convert to Judaism and still be able to walk around hitting unwitting others over the head with your “H” club for fun and profit.

So anyway, this is my sentiment, and then today’s news is that some old white supremacist and anti-Semite opened fire at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. today, shooting and wounding a guard.

Hell. Open a museum dedicated to victimhood, and yes, you’re likely to attract a crazy hater now and then, and one crazy hater shooting up a place that enshrines hatred is not indicative of systemic victimhood.

You know, as a gay man whose equal human and civil rights were shot down by a slim majority of voters in November, I’m no stranger to oppression.

Gay men were persecuted by the Nazis in the Holocaust, too, but I don’t go around clubbing people with my “H” club.

And it’s hard to buy that the Jews still are such victims when the Israel-first lobby runs U.S. foreign policy, for fuck’s sake, and when the Israelis still are decimating the Palestinians, whom they treat as the Nazis used to treat the Jews: like animals it’s OK to slaughter.

All of that said, if I could do it over again, I might not have made the remark about the fact that they are making too damned many movies about Nazis these days in front of the Jewish baby boomer who wears a tacky holographic Star of David pendant around his neck for the whole world to see what a poor fucking “victim” he is. (I guess that I need to go out and get my tacky holographic pink triangle and wear it around my neck in order to be able to emotionally and socially manipulate others, too.)

But the Jewish victimhood thing needs to stop. Firstly, possessing a perpetual victimhood mentality doesn’t help any historically oppressed minority group; it only keeps that group down. Secondly, using the Holocaust for personal, political or social gain today spits in the faces of those who actually did suffer in the Holocaust, and it degrades and cheapens their involuntary sacrifices at the hands of the Nazis (about whom they really need to stop making any more movies). And thirdly, as I stated, it’s hard for me to look at how much power the Jews, as a relatively tiny group of people, disproportionately wield in the world, and still be able to call them victims, like I’m supposed to do like a good little goy or risk being labeled a Holocaust-denying anti-Semite.

You know, it seems to me that if you hate the Jews and really want to bring them down, you should treat them as nicely as humanly possible — thus eroding their bullshit claims of perpetual victimhood, which they use, rather effectively, to get what they want.

Ironically, the old coot who shot up the Holocaust Memorial Museum today only helped to bolster the image of the Jews as the perpetual victims, and in so doing he only shot his “cause” in the foot…

Update: The media are reporting now that, unfortunately, the security guard who apparently was shot by the 88-year-old white supremacist and anti-Semite James Von Brunn has died. The security guard is being identified as Stephen T. Johns, whose age I haven’t seen given yet.

Von Brunn was shot but survives, which is too bad; the wrong guy died in the shootout.

Update (June 11, 2009): So otherwise fairly intelligent people are asserting, or at least implying (such as here and here), that the Department of Homeland Security’s fairly recent report on the threat of homegrown right-wing terrorists has been validated by yesterday’s shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.

Wow.

You wouldn’t call just one illness or even a handful of illnesses a “pandemic” and probably not even an “epidemic.”

Yet one shooting by one old crackpot hater who apparently acted alone validates the Department of Homeland Security’s report on the threat of homegrown right-wing terrorists?

The security guard who was killed yesterday by the white supremacist and anti-Semitic geezer at the Holocaust Memorial Museum was black, the media are reporting. I’m guessing that the guard wasn’t Jewish, but the shooting, because of its location, is further bolstering the Israel-first lobby’s victimhood status nonetheless. 

Aren’t there hate crimes, including murders, against gay men, lesbians and other non-heterosexuals every fucking day in the United States? Why isn’t that talked about as a widespread problem, but the shooting death of one person is?

Because the right wing is anti-non-heterosexual, don’t hate crimes against non-heterosexuals count as homegrown right-wing terrorism?

Not that historically oppressed minority groups need to engage in battles as to which group is more oppressed — I’ll never forget that many blacks, such as Jesse Jackson, have asserted that rights for non-heterosexuals are not civil rights, for instance — but please.

When you look at historically oppressed minority groups in the United States, Jews overall are doing pretty well, I think, and thus I see no need for their continued assertions of systemic victimhood (except, of course, that such bullshit assertions continue to get them even more).

All of that said, I want to make it clear that I oppose anti-Semitism if we define anti-Semitism as the hatred of an individual solely because he or she is Jewish.

I judge individuals based upon their words, deeds and political ideology (in which I include their moral beliefs and values), not their religious affiliation, even though I am not crazy about Christianity, Islam or Judaism or pretty much any organized religion.

Both of my state’s U.S. senators, for instance, are Jewish.

(So 100 percent of my state’s U.S. senators are Jewish, while only about 3 percent of my fellow Californians are Jewish.  A total of 14 U.S. senators, or 14 percent of the U.S. Senate, are Jewish; there will be 15 Jewish U.S. senators once Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race is finally decided, as both Democrat Al Franken and Repugnican Norm Coleman are Jewish. Jews comprise no more than 2 percent to 2.5 percent of the American population, yet they are wildly overrepresented in high political office. Two of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices, almost a quarter of them, are Jewish. But nooo, American Jews are such powerless victims!)

Anyway, as I was saying, I love Sen. Barbara Boxer. While I haven’t agreed with her 100 percent of the time, I think that because of her consistently progressive views and votes, she truly can be called a Democrat.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, however, whom I unfondly think of as Mrs. Joseph Benedict Arnold Lieberman, I cannot stand; she is a DINO (Democrat in name only). Her husband, Richard Blum, profited from the Vietraq War that Feinstein voted for, for starters. (Boxer, on the other hand, wisely voted against the unelected Bush regime’s Vietraq War in October 2002.)

Boxer also was the only U.S. senator with the cajones to speak out against the fixed presidential election in the pivotal state of Ohio in 2004.

I’d much rather have Boxer as president than the waffling, slick, trying-to-please-all-people, I-regret-that-I-voted-for-him Barack Obama, hands down.

And the list of Jews I find hot (JILFs, I call them) includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jon Stewart and “Saturday Night Live’s” Andy Samberg. And, as I just alluded to, I love Jewish liberals; some of the finest liberal minds are Jewish.

It’s the right-wing Jews I can’t stand, those Jews who scream “Jewish victimization!” but who have no problem with the war crimes and the crimes against humanity committed in the Middle East by Israel and who supported the plunging of the United States into the illegal, immoral, unprovoked, unjust and wholly unnecessary Vietraq War, which resulted not only in the unnecessary deaths of thousands upon thousands of people, civilians and soldiers, but also depleted the U.S. treasury and stretched the U.S. military thinly, as well as making the United States and Americans even more hated around the world than they were before Sept. 11, 2001. 

The members of the Israel-first lobby in the United States are, by definition, traitors, for they put outside interests above the interests of their own nation.

P.S. To be fair, many also are pointing to the recent assassination of abortionist George Tiller in Kansas as further proof that Homeland Security’s report about the threat of homegrown right-wing terrorism was right on target.

I’m just not so convinced that these incidents of homegrown right-wing terrorism, as wrong as they are, are more than the number of them that we could expect anyway, statistically speaking. Again, a few events don’t make for an epidemic or pandemic, in my book.

And I still have a problem with the fact that hate crimes against non-heterosexuals don’t garner nearly as much outrage as do hate crimes against other historically oppressed minority groups.

I mean, from what I can tell, not a single Jew was killed yesterday at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, but the Jews are getting tea and sympathy over the tragedy nonetheless.

P.P.S. How could I have forgotten the iconic Harvey Milk in my list of Jews I love? I love the man, and, as I have written, I want to see a Harvey Milk Day in California.

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Kate rocks; ‘The Reader,’ not so much…

Actress Kate Winslet arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party ...

Associated Press photo

Kate Winslet holds her statue for Best Actress for her performance in “The Reader” last month.

I love Kate Winslet — she was great in “Little Children” and “Revolutionary Road” — but today I saw “The Reader,” for which she won Best Actress (because she won Best Actress for it), and she should have won for her much better performance in “Revolutionary Road.”

“The Reader” starts out promisingly with the tale of a love affair between a 15-year-old boy (played masterfully by David Kross) and a much older German woman named Hanna Schmitz (Winslet), but then the film gradually devolves to the point where it becomes a preachy lecture (rather literally) on how horrible the Holocaust (in which Hanna later becomes embroiled) was.

And “The Reader” doesn’t delve much into Hanna’s psyche as to why she did what she did when she worked for the Nazis, and we are left with the feeling that this isn’t because the filmmakers left it to us to figure it out for ourselves, but because the filmmakers didn’t know how to develop Hanna’s character on film. Indeed, about the only change that the character of Hannah goes through in “The Reader” is increasingly bad makeup jobs on Winslet as her character ages.

Ralph Fiennes adds little to “The Reader” as Michael Berg, Hanna’s teen lover all grown up — the grown-up Michael’s involvement with the even older Hannah lacks passion, heart and even rhyme or reason (why doesn’t he respond to her letters from prison when he is sending her recorded audiotapes there, and why doesn’t he visit her in prison?) — but hey, if Ralph Fiennes is in your movie and your movie is about the Holocaust, you’re sure to win an Oscar, right?

“The Reader” director Stephen Daldry, who also directed “Billy Elliot,” seems to do better with younger actors, such as with Kross, whose performance in “The Reader” rivals Winslet’s (if it doesn’t exceed it), and with Jamie Bell, whose kick-ass performance as the title character in “Billy Elliot” unfortunately didn’t launch the career for Bell that it should have. Daldry with “The Reader” seemed unable to elicit much from Fiennes and not enough from Winslet; directing youth might be more his forte. 

All of this aside, did we really need another Holocaust movie?

The Nazis executed about six million Jews in the Holocaust, one of history’s most horrific events.

We get it.

Straight-on Holocaust movies like “Schindler’s List” are been there, done that, so the majority of the crop of more recent Holocaust-themed films seem to be more tangential, such as “The Pianist,” “The Counterfeiters” and “The Reader.”

Still, the genre of the Holocaust/Nazi movie has been exhausted, and the plethora of Holocaust/Nazi films now are serving only to make the historical event more trivial rather than to make it more poignant.

While I know that Holocaust/Nazi movies have “Academy Award nomination” written all over them, I beg Hollywood: Please stop…

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