If it's crap ... We'll tell you
You know, if I lived in the Netherlands, I'd have been intimately familiar with this 2008 Dutch film by now. It was a giant hit, outgrossing "The Dark Knight" and "Twilight", won a ton of awards, and even made it to the Academy Award "Best Foreign Language Film" nominations. And why not? It's based on an award winning 1972 novel, and previously had a very popular miniseries adaptation made. Ah, but this is America (where it's occasionally warm and I can get decent Tex-Mex) and I knew not a goddamn thing about this war film set in Nazi-occupied Holland except that when it played here, I slept through the morning press screening time. Oops. My bad. Those Dutch have got something here; "Winter in Wartime" is one of the best war films I've seen in recent memory. The story follows Michiel, a young boy who doesn't completely understand the threat of the Nazis strolling around his village and resents his father, the town's mayor, for not openly antagonizing them. The boy ends up stumbling across an injured American pilot (Jamie Campbell Bower) hiding out in the woods and decides to assist him with medical aid, food, and eventually, a planned escape across the fortified border. But while young Michiel understands the larger concepts involved with what's right and what's wrong (like, you know, Nazis...kind of a no-brainer, really), he doesn't grasp or has had to confront the harsh realities of life and death involved here, but he will...oh yes, he will indeed. "Winter During Wartime" is perhaps one of the best films ever made about the shedding of innocence in a wartime scenario. While character based, the tension never relents, with it all building to a very surprising, jaw-dropping climax. Innocence shattered indeed. A must-see.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Winter in Wartime (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
MATRIMONY (Blu-Ray and DVD)
Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So why do I keep watching these new Japanese ghost horror films expecting them to live up to the initial pleasant surprise that "Ringu" delivered? Wow, that was all the way back in 1998, but I keep hoping for something different. "Matrimony", the latest HD re-release from Tartan Asia Extreme certainly does take a different course with its ghost story, but it never really coalesces into something worthwhile. The tale follows Shen Junchu and Xu Manli, a happy couple who are separated when a car accident violently takes the life of Xu right in front of Shen. Flash to years later: Shen is in an arranged marriage, living with Sansan, but it's a cold war of a home life. Shen wants nothing to do with the mousy Sansan and treats her like an unwanted guest, and the poor girl has no idea what to do about it, as she actually does love him. But when Sansan stumbles into the ghost of Shen who tells her she wants to help Sansan to move on and learn to love someone else, she's at first terrified, but then opportunistic. Sure enough, after letting Shen briefly possess her body, it seems like Shen is coming around, but maybe it's not such a good idea to make deals with the dead. What is it with ghosts in Japan, anyway? We've got nice ghosts over here (I'm looking at you, Bruce Willis. Oh, and spoiler warning there, sorry about that), why is every deceased revenant in the east such a jerk, regardless of what they were like when they were alive? There should be some sort of Dead Anti-defamation league. But never mind all that, "Matrimony" never manages to be even a bit scary, comes to a completely undecipherable and abrupt twist ending, and even the transfer looks like almost nothing was done to upgrade it to HD. It's a swing and a miss.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Matrimony (Blu-ray)