Director: Oliver Parker (2016)
Don’t panic! Fans of the veteran TV series can stand at ease and enjoy this big screen adaption of the second world war sitcom.
It generally succeeds in it’s mild ambitions of providing charming entertainment and gentle laughs.
The director describes it as a celebration of the long running show and in respectful fashion the semi-skimmed sauce of the picture postcard humour is never crude or cruel.
Set in early 1944, the Daily Telegraph reading Nazi high rank send a spy codenamed Cobra, into Blighty.
Meanwhile the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard, led by the pompous Captain Mainwaring and the diffident Sergeant Wilson, are thoroughly unprepared.
Toby Jones and Bill Nighy step into the boots of beloved actors Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier to breathe new life into the roles.
The top rank cast are hummed into action by the familiar theme tune alongside Tom Courtenay and Michael Gambon as Lance Corporal Jones and Private Godfrey.
Privates Pike, Walker and Frazer are also present and correct.
Catherine Zeta-Jones appears as glamorous journalist Rose Winters, who wants to write a story about the platoon.
Rose captivates the men which upsets their wives, resulting a fresh outbreak of hostilities in the battle of the sexes.
Action is always just out of reach for the men, who’s sense of masculinity has already been blitzed by being unable to fight overseas with the real troops.
But as chaos predictably ensues, the opportunity arises to earn their spurs in combat.
This is as much a celebration of British nature as anything else. So there’s snobbery, curtain twitching gossips and men acting like schoolboys.
But there’s also loyalty, bravery, friendship, good humoured amateurism and a determination to does one’s bit for the greater good.
Dad’s Army is such a peculiarly British institution it would be unpatriotic not to salute as it marches on.
Director: Michael Bay (2016)
No guns are too big in this crunching and confusing action story.
It’s a typically glossy, macho and bombastic encounter from director Michael Bay, the man who unleashed four Transformers movies on the world.
This real story is set in 2012 in Benghazi, Libya, after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi.
Lead by the James Badge Dale as former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, six CIA employed mercenaries defend a US compound against a vastly superior force, in Benghazi, Libya.
With sweat, blood, tears and ammo they must hold out until reinforcements arrive.
But local allies can’t be trusted and the US military are held up by diplomacy.
In a weak attempt at humanising the men, we see them posing in cool blue shades and suits, working out and face-timing their families back home.
Presumably because the director can’t abide not having an attractive in his movies, Alexia Barlier is thrust into non-scenes in a non-role as an undercover CIA operative.
Despite the battles being staged on an impressively large scale, it’s a glossy, video game vision of war.
The kinetic camerawork aspires to make the land seem as alien and threatening as possible.
The use of strong colour recalls the work of Tony Scott and the subject matter the superior war film Black Hawk Down (2001) by his brother Ridley. But nothing here is as good as their best work.
Written to sound good in the trailers, the jargon heavy dialogue is barked between bursts of gunfire.
An anti intellectual script abandons global politics and blames the resourceful men’s predicament firmly on military cutbacks and weak willed pencil pushers.
Not afraid to make comparisons to the famous defence of the Alamo, it’s a hymn to the second amendment right to bear arms and could be interpreted as a call for the US to adopt an isolationist international policy.
As hordes of nameless militia are gunned down with pin point blood splattering accuracy, I often had no idea which of our heroes was whom, making it hard to care who makes it out alive.
Director: Tobias Lindholm (2016)
Guns, grenades and gavels will shred your nerves in this riveting courtroom drama set in the Afghan war.
An army commander is looking down the barrel of a long prison sentence for killing civilians in the act of saving his men.
A smart script gives meaning to the intense battle scenes and the film is always sympathetic to the soldiers.
We fear for the soldiers, worry for the dirt-poor locals and agonise for the families back home.
Danish duo Tobias Lindholm and Pilou Asbaek team up for the second time as director and star respectively.
They previously collaborated on the gripping A Hijacking (2013) where Asbaek played a ship’s captain held hostage by Somali pirates.
A Hijacking was followed into cinemas by Paul Greengrass’ similar though not superior Captain Philips (2013) which starred Tom Hanks.
As well as directing, Lindholm also writes his own scripts and was responsible for writing the Mads Mikkelson drama The Hunt (2012).
All three scripts feature men under intense pressure stemming from decisions made under stress at work.
Asbaek plays Company Commander Claus Pedersen. He is brave and devoted leader of his team, accompanying them on patrol to restore moral after the loss of one of his men to an IED.
Gallows humour peppers the dialogue and there is an absolute lack of gung ho jingoism.
The tumult of a firefight is created with great sound editing, dust clouds and frantic camerawork.
Having the cast scream at each other in their native Danish adds to the turmoil.
The Taliban are a mostly unseen if ferocious enemy, portrayed by the chaos and death they cause. Their victims are all too easily identifiable.
There are no overt political points being made but the mere presence of Danish nationals patrolling the plains of Afghanistan is a defiantly curious phenomenon.
I spent a lot of time urging them to keep their bloody heads down – while I crouched behind the back of the chair in front.
Being in court is more stressful than the battleground for the heroic Claus. His fight on either front will keep you gripped.
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel (2015)
Cinema’s fascination with all things Der Fuehrer continues with this compelling true story about a lone assassination attempt on Hitler.
Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) is a liberty loving patriot who wants to prevent a war he believes will destroy Germany.
So on 8th November 1939 in a Munich beer hall he planted explosives timed to explode where Hitler was due to speak. High ranking Nazi’s Himmler, Heydrich and Goebbels were also present.
Due to fog changing his travel plans, Hitler avoids the bomb by thirteen minutes.
Seven people are killed and Elser is arrested. He chooses to sing rather than confess even his date of birth.
Through flashbacks we see Elser’s progress from pacifist musician to violent revolutionary.
He is a skilled musician, dancer, carpenter and clockmaker. Although a communist sympathiser not a party member, his attitudes harden when his friends are prosecuted by the Nazi’s.
The duplicitous way a political message is packaged and sold to a greedy public should act as a warning to a contemporary audience.
Explosions from the nearby quarry are a fanfare of the future, a suggestion of the horrors of war to come.
Although Chief interrogator Nebe (Burghart Klaussner) is quickly convinced Elser acted alone, he receives orders from Hitler to discover who the conspirators were.
The mute secretary typing notes is skilled at judging when to leave the room before the blood begins to flow.
After medieval torture involving straps and heated nails, Elser’s girlfriend Elsa (Katharina Schuttler) is threatened, adding emotional torment to the physical.
There’s beatings, hangings, humiliations, some photography and a fair amount of zither music.
Through a combination of editing (Alexander Dittner) and cinematography (Judith Kaufman) plus some choice screaming and vomiting from Elser, the eye-watering torture is suggested rather than shown.
The production design demonstrates excellent attention to detail for the sophisticated Nazi propaganda and the pre-war period as a whole.
Director Hirschbiegel was Oscar nominated for Downfall (2004), his masterful telling of the last days in Hitler’s bunker. His last film was the appalling biopic of the late Princess of Wales, Diana (2013).
Here he’s created a handsome, intelligent film with tremendous performances but it doesn’t reveal anything new.