Things to Come (1936)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I avoided this film for a while, but damn it’s really something special. The story is the unfolding of a century from war and chaos, to utopian innovation. I was already a fan of H.G. Welles adaptations since I was a kid, I’ve read some of his books as an adult, but I never really understood the breadth of his imagination until seeing this movie. Welles wrote The Shape of Things to Come in 1933. If it’s anything like The War of the Worlds, the book is FAR better than the film. In spite of that, to SEE how ‘30s filmmakers applied Welles’ ideas is truly stunning. Things to Come has a far more spectacular look than I would have thought was possible before WW2. In the beginning of the film everything appears like you would expect. As the story moves forward in time, it all becomes more and more wonderfully bizarre, and just keeps getting weirder. The grim war years are particularly something to behold. Bottom line, if you are a science fiction fan, this is essential viewing.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion Collection.

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The Siege of Jadotville (2016)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Here’s a solid, history-based war movie. I had never heard of this battle, so this was all news to me. The film features good performances, a fast-pace, and it gets pretty graphic here and there too. This is the first time I realized that Jamie Dornan was a skilled actor. I despised anything to do with Fifty Shades of Grey, but he is truly talented in spite of being involved in a garbage franchise. I recommend checking out Anthopoid and My Dinner With Herve as well. The Siege of Jadotville is not going to move you like say, The Thin Red Line, but if you want some entertaining battle action, it’s a good pick.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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The Forgotten Battle (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

The first Dutch Netflix feature is a very good, fact-based, WW2 drama. It is beautifully shot, and a lot of care was taken on the sound design. This has been compared to Dunkirk, but I honestly enjoyed The Forgotten Battle more. Here we are not spared from the ugly details of war. The drama felt more real to me as well.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Mosul (Drama – 2019)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is an excellent action drama, based on the true story of the Iraqi SWAT team (check out the documentary of the same name / subject). It’s gritty and violent for sure, but the characters and performances make Mosul rise above a cheesy action flick. Netflix has delivered a fast paced movie of very high quality. I wish they’d try harder to repeat that.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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The Painted Bird (2019)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

The Painted Bird is one of the nastiest art films I’ve seen in recent years, and I admire that. Based on the acclaimed book, a boy is trying to survive on his own during WW2. He runs into every kind of weirdo and sadist you can imagine along the way. The plot reminds me of Sade’s Justine, and the cinematography owes much to Andrei Tarkovsky (particularly one of my favorites, Ivan’s Childhood). If you can’t handle simulated violence against animals, definitely skip this movie. The poor creatures are dispatched right from the beginning, and the mayhem continues throughout. The kid gets abused nearly as bad. You’ll see several famous actors in small roles. I found that (and the use of a Wilhelm Scream) a little distracting, but I imagine it helped get this crazy movie made. You can read an interview with the director here. I look forward to seeing what he does next.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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The Rape of Europa (2006)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

We all know Hitler was an asshole. Did you know that the cherry on top of his asshole behavior was stealing and destroying great works of art? It’s true. You can learn all about it in this excellent documentary. I honestly give The Rape of Europa my highest recommendation.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Beasts of No Nation is an excellent drama about a West African boy who is made into a child soldier. The movie is brutal, but tells an important story. Here’s one interesting bit of trivia, at one point in the film the colors all shift to ultra-violet. This was a reference to visual artist Richard Mosse’s series “The Enclave.” I got to see his stunning multi-screen video installation at the Portland Museum of Art in 2014.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion.

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