I am reviewing the World War 2 concentration camp documentary Shoah directed in 1985 by Claude Lanzman and that is my favorite film of all time. This film took 11 years to make and apparently they shot 350 hours of footage and 4 films have been made since from the outtakes. The film itself is over 9 hours and perhaps amazingly had a cinema release. I would defy anybody to watch this film and see if they are moved. I saw this film first around 1990 on television and thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. Last week I decided to purchase it and it is on 4 dvds. Barry Norman a famous British film critic said there are some films that at the end of the day all you can say is go and see it and this is one of those films. The film concentrates on 3 concentration camps and the Warsaw Ghetto. When it was commisioned they assumed it was going to be about 2 hours but Claude wanted to make the definitive film on the subject which it is. It was criticized for not including footage of interviews with Poles who helped Jews. The interviewees are mostly inmates from the concentration camps. Claude didn’t speak all the interviewees languages and had to interview them with an interpreter. Apparently some of the interviews were rehearsed and the German soldiers interviewed were sometimes filmed covertly. Obviously I empatically recommend it and I noticed Claude has done a 22 hour documentary which I definitely will try and get and review at a later date. Presumably that was a series done for television.

 

I am reviewing the World War 2 movie Flags of our Fathers which is directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Ryan Philippe and is an excellent film. The film looks at the Battle of Iwo Jima from the American perspective and a companion film The Battle of Iwo Jima which is mostly in Japanese looks at it from the Japanese perspective. The latter won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Steven Speilberg is a producer on the films. Flags of our Fathers looks at the battle and how various members of the marines coped with it later in life. There is a quite moving scene when someone goes overboard of a ship in a convoy going to the battlezone and none of the ships stop to rescue him as they are on a tight schedule. The main premise of the film which is based on truth and a book of the same name is during the battle they hoisted a stars and stripes flag and the scene was displayed in newspapers and magazines and caught people’s imaginations. They had trouble identifying the 6 people involved but they got to meet the President, help sell war bonds and become celebrities. One of their number got drunk and sick and got put back on the frontline. I do have the companion film on dvd so will review that soon. I did very much enjoy this film and I think Clint has come a long way since his first directed film High Plains Drifter.

I am reviewing the fantasy novel Hollowland by Amanda Hocking which is an excellent book that I bought from kindle. This is the first installment in the Hollows series about their being a virus that turns people into killer zombies. This book is a decent length and is considerably longer than it’s sequel. In this book we don’t how the virus originated which is probably going to be in a later book. The book starts with the people who are immune being held in a quarantine in a military facility where at least they have electricity and food but are dreadfully exposed to any zombie invasion where because they are in a locked room have no means of escape. Some of them do get away and then they have the problem that most food has become spoiled in addition to evading the zombies. This book is aimed at teens so isn’t too gruesome. They do go into another military facility where they do try to escape mainly because they are running low on supplies. Unlike many zombie horrors the zombies run, are intelligent and work together which certainly makes this book different. Of course at the end one of their number is stuck in a military facility having organs removed and having to donate loads of blood which is where the 2 installment starts which I already have reviewed. Amanda does take you into a fascinating world. I think she is one of the better teen fiction authors. On their inital attempt to get in the army base they are told they can go in the stockade where there is no escape but it isn’t straight forward getting allowed in the base. I did really enjoy this book probably a little bit more so than it’s sequel. I will definitely read more books by Amanda.

 

I am reviewing the urban fantasy novel Hollowmen by Amanda Hocking which is an excellent book that I bought on kindle. This book is the 2nd installment in the Hollows series and is basically about the planet being plagued by zombies which unlike many other books can run and are intelligent. Amanda publishes lots of books for around a £1 each on kindle and she sells so many books she actually makes more than many established authors. This is the first book I have read by her and I am very impressed. She lives in Minnesota and specializes in paranormal romances and urban fantasies for teens. The plot to this book is the planet is being plagued by a virus that turns people into zombies. Many people shoot themselves rather than risk the fate. One person appears to be immune to it and is subject to much painful examination in the form of surgery and having to give lots of blood. The facility become over run with zombies and he is helplessly strapped into a bed and luckily someone gets him out. They join a community of people who are resisting the zombies and scavenging a living. One of their number is having sex and is bitten by a zombie at one point. They also come across a young girl who has some how stayed alive and she joins them. They realize they must get away to Canada where the population before hand was sparse so zombies won’t be so attracted to the area. This book pulls you into a fantastic little world that you don’t want to end. I haven’t read the first installment but will as soon as possible because this book is great. Obviously because it is aimed at teens it’s not as gory as it could be. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would have no problem recommending it.

The book I read to research this post was The Berlitz Pocket Guide to Florence which is a very good book that I bought from kindle. This book is quite short around 150 pages but has sections on the various restaurants and hotels and presents the history and tourist attractions quite well. Pisa which used to be the local port until the River Arno estuary silted up and is 50 miles away. There is only a relatively small airport at Florence and most people travel to either Pisa or Bologna airports which normally work out cheaper. Budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet do good deals from Britain. Pisa of course has the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Florence is a great Renaissance city that has made a huge contribution to art, sculpture and science in times past. The Uffizi Gallery has the biggest collection of Renaissance art in the world. There is also a church built in a cavern. In World War 2 much damage was done to Florence and every bridge but one was blown up by the retreating German forces. This was the oldest bridge and presumably it was left due to its great historical significance. There are small shops built into the bridge and these have existed since the 16th Century. Probably the most famous exhibit in Florence is the statue David by Michelangelo. People who know a thing or two about sculpture marvel at the fantastic techniques incorporated into creating this sculpture and its amazing to think he was only 26 when he created this. It stands 15 ft high. Florence is also famous for the Medici family who were great patrons of the arts and have a palace that is worth visiting. That is largely why so many great Renaissance artists came here. I enjoyed reading this book and you might be interested to know there is a previous post on Florence based on another book on this site.

I am reviewing the classic tv science fiction series which is co written and directed by Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame and is excellent. This show only did one series and 14 shows and a feature film Serenity were made but only 11 shows were aired before it was cancelled. It is one of the greatest shows to be prematurely ended of all time. It is set in the 26th century and contains many western elements and they tend to use guns still presumably because they are cheaper to produce than laser guns. There are 2 super powers China and the United States which have joined forces and colonized a star system with the over population problems making it essential. The firefly class space ship Serenity does freight jobs to earn money and when they take on board 2 people who are wanted by the authorities they become wanted themselves. One of them is River played by Summer Glau who is brilliantly clever but has been tortured and experimented on leaving her in a schizophrenic state although as the series continues we find she can read minds and become well as she is accepted by the crew. The 2 most senior crew members are Nathan Fillion & Gina torres. Jewel Staite plays the ships engineer with little training but can fix the ship almost instinctively. Morena Baccharin plays an escort with a lot of connections who rents a room onboard and small shuttle to carry out her business. She helps give the ship credibility with the authorities as many of her clients are important people. Nathan & Morena are very much attracted to each other but never do anything about it. Most of the episodes are stories in themselves although certain threads run through the whole season. Apparently there is a campaign by fans to try and get one of the tv networks to try and pick it up or get a sequel made to the movie Serenity based on the series. Quite a few of the cast were in either Angel or Buffy the Vampire Slayer which of course Joss helped make. Morena was initially cast as Eve but there were contractual issues so the part went to Eliza Dushka. I watched this tv series all the way through and really enjoyed it and would love to see Serenity which I hope to review soon. I would definitely recommend this.

I am reviewing the animated film Shrek 2 which is an excellent film. It stars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Bandaras, Rupert Everett, Jennifer Saunders, Julie Andrews and John Cleese. I think it is the weakest film in the Shrek series but still pretty damn good. Apparently the original writers they hired wanted a fairy tale plot to this sequel which I think would have ruined. The main charm of this series is they parody the world of fairy tales in a very funny way. In this film Shrek and Princess Fiona have got married and decided to visit her parents who are both appalled the 2 are ogres. The evil fairy godmother wants Fiona to become a human and marry her son Prince Charming. Shrek wants to become a human along with Fiona because he thinks it will please her and steals a happily ever after potion from the fairy godmother’s workshop and it results in him becoming a handsome man and Donkey becoming a handsome steed. In the meantime King Harold has hired Puss in Boots to kill Shrek although it doesn’t work and he teams up with Shrek to try and make amends. The fairy godmother has Shrek and his friends locked away and tries to pass Charming off as Shrek and tries to force King Harold to give Fiona a love potion. This doesn’t work so she casts a spell that whoever kisses Fiona before midnight will live happily ever after in human form. Of course it all pans out quite happily and Shrek and Fiona elect to stay ogres. This film is about what we perceive as beautiful and how at the end of the it is in the eye of the beholder and more diverse than many of us realise. This was the most successful non Disney animated film to date. At the time it came out it was the most successful animated film up till then. It was Oscar nominated for Best Animated Film but lost to The Incredibles and was nominated for the top award at Cannes. It is a thoroughly enjoyable film that I definitely recommend. It is getting on in years but especially in terms of being a family movie is an undisputed classic.