The Death of Stalin

stalin

What is the difference, if any, between laughing at the absurd death of a dictator who killed around 60 million people, and laughing at one who killed anywhere from 9 to 50 million people? The numbers are impossible to verify, the suffering is impossible to quantify, but yet one is decidedly easier to laugh at than the other. From The Great Dictator (1940), through springtime to Tarantino’s Basterds (2009), I have had little self-reflection about separating laughter and sorrow at the events. In fact countless comedies are set within the horrific events of WW2, one even inside a concentration camp.

There are not as many mainstream comedies set in Stalin’s Russia, despite the fact that many non-Russian film-makers love to interpret Russian life, music and literature for their own audiences. We have countless western versions of War & Peace, to name just one. What makes one dictator more meme-friendly than another? Not a question I can answer here, but it’s an interesting thought that The Death of Stalin (2018) put in my head. There is no Stalinesque equivalent of Hitler reacting to his xbox account getting suspended. There is no Stalin singing “I’m so ronry” in puppet form. Yet, you have to admit he has the numbers too, as Eddie Izzard once noted.

You may feel all of these examples are in poor taste, and shouldn’t be laughed at. But I have, without much thought as to why I felt that’s ok. So this review of The Death of Stalin (2018) is going to be part review and part me figuring out why it’s uncomfortable even as I roll with laughter.

Spoilers below.

Continue reading “The Death of Stalin”

The Croods Review

the-croodsApparently, I have an incurable prejudice against a certain type of animated film. Time and time again I am proven wrong, but it has still taken me this long to finally see The Croods. Movies like Megamind, Madagascar 1, 2 and 3, and Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2 were all initially dismissed (though I can hardly be blamed for the last one – honestly, Jack Black as a kung fu fighting Panda? Anyone would be suspicious). None of them are without faults, but all of them provide a good time, surprising depth, and above all clear evidence that a lot of love went into them.

Despite being wrong so often, I wasn’t excited at all to see The Croods, but then it popped up on Netflix on a Sunday night, and I am glad it did.

Continue reading “The Croods Review”

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

grandbudapestI have been a Wes Anderson fan ever since Mum told us to go to the neighbouring town to see The Royal Tenenbaums, because it seemed like a quirky little film. Quirky enough not to be shown at our local cinema, at least. I was a young teenager, and knew nothing about films except that I loved them. I think what I found in Wes Anderson’s strange family tale was a love of every aspect of movie-making. Even though I love his other films, it is only The Grand Budapest that finally replaced Tenenbaum as my favourite. Luckily, it doesn’t feel like a culmination, nor has his style gotten tired or overused. I can’t imagine a time when it will.

The story of the Grand Budapest Hotel is a story in a story in a story. A young girl goes to visit the grave of a famous author, whose book tells the story of the time he met the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel, and this owner in turn tells of how he came into its possession. But in actuality, the movie is about the great concierge of the Grand Budapest, Gustave H., played by Ralph Fiennes, and his adventures, for lack of a better term.

Continue reading “The Grand Budapest Hotel Review”

Norwegian Connections in Frozen

Frozen-movie-posterI have finally watched Frozen, and as a Norwegian I had a pretty great time finding some of the Norwegian elements in the film. The tourist website, Visit Norway is already using the film to do a bit of promotion. There is no doubt the film has a lot of Scandinavian elements, and I thought I’d catalogue just a few details I caught on my first viewing.

First a short review (spoilers):

Continue reading “Norwegian Connections in Frozen”

Not Dead Yet – Dead Snow 2 Review

deadsnowIf you haven’t heard about the Norwegian zombie-movie Dead Snow (2009) then you are in for a treat – if you like zombie comedies, that is. The film resides both inside and outside the genre, poking fun and fulfilling the tropes at the same time. It is gruesome, but the actual massacre isn’t really disgusting. The most grotesque moment, for instance, comes not during one of the many intestine-ripping scenes, but when two of the group have sex in the outhouse. The film features the standard “friends on a camping trip in the mountains”, but ups the ante by including zombie Nazis on the hunt for their Nazi-gold. One by one, the group gets massacred, ending with our last protagonist thinking he finally got away, only to have the Nazi leader, Oberst Herzog (how many zombie movies have zombies with names?) about to finish him off.

And that is where Dead Snow 2 (Dø Snø 2) starts, after a quick recap, so there are some spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the first one. Our protagonist had his arm cut off during the first film, and during his escape he manages to rip the arm off Oberst Herzog. At the hospital the doctors accidentally attach the zombie’s arm, which turns out has a bit of a mind of its own. Meanwhile, Oberst Herzog and his army of zombies start recruiting in order to finally accomplish the mission Hitler set them: wiping out the quiet town of Talvik.

Continue reading “Not Dead Yet – Dead Snow 2 Review”

The Triumph of Love – Valentine’s Day Review

Films about royalty - The Triumph of Love 2001This week I was planning on reviewing some Oscar noms, but so much has been said about them that I didn’t feel like being an echo-chamber, so I went on Netflix and picked a random film from the romantic category. Nearly all my favourite love stories are period dramas. I think that’s because the costumes and Shakespearean dialogue lets you get away with a few more clichés. The Triumph of Love (2001) embraces the clichés, and delivers on all the good ol’ ones.

Continue reading “The Triumph of Love – Valentine’s Day Review”

The Legend Continues

Anchorman-2For myself, I have to go all the way back to Leslie Nielsen’s Golden Age, or perhaps 1993’s Hot Shots: Part Deux to find a comedy sequel that I feel surpassed the original. Simply keeping up with the first one is an enormous challenge. But I did feel, in my heart, that if anyone could pull it off, it had to be Ron Burgundy himself.

Ron and his wife, Veronica, have a perfect New York life, but it all comes crashing down (or at least Ron’s part of it) when Veronica gets the evening news, and he gets fired. Told by his hero that he’s the worst newsman in history, he crawls back to San Diego to work at Sea World. Hope blooms again when a new network, GNN (Global News Network), asks him to join them for a new era in news: the twenty-four-hour news channel.

Continue reading “The Legend Continues”