Saturday 27 August 2011

DVD Reviews

Iron & Blood: The Legend of Taras Bulba
Starring: Bohdan Stupka, Igor Petrenko & Vladimir Vdovichenkov
Director: Vladimir Bortko
Metrodome Group
Available from 22/08/11 on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

Forged by many years of tears and bloodshed, Taras Bulba is a hardened warlord determined to wage war against Poland. He has two beloved sons, Ostap and Andriy, whom he seeks to train as warriors. Although Ostap is just as bloodthirsty as his father, Andriy falls for a daughter of the enemy – a Polish noblewoman. Forsaking his heritage for the woman he loves, the news leaves Taras Bulba determined to fight to the death to defeat his foes and seek revenge on his own son.

Now, I realise before I start that this movie is based on a story, and that it’s held as a pretty damn good story, if a little on the pro-Russian side of what was debatably a mixed affair in terms of successes. However, I haven’t read it, thus can only go by how well this film stands up by itself. Now, the pleasant news in this instance is that the film holds up pretty reasonably for the most part, though it’s not all good news.

First things first, the battle scenes in this movie are done particularly well, which is helpful considering that the movie is based on a story of war. The deaths, in particular, are pretty gruesome, and fit well with the tone of the movie. It’s a good rule of thumb that if you’re going to have an overarching theme, you want the movie to reflect that part well, right? Right. Now, the downside to this movie is that the non-fighting parts are pretty tedious, and there are rather a lot of them over the two hour movie.

Another thing I liked about the movie was how the character of Taras Bulba was developed over the course of the film. Unsurprisingly, he features pretty heavily, and over the course of the film he goes from loving father to a man crushed by his son's betrayal, all the while defiant against the Polish. His portrayal is probably the best one in the film, although the sons have some good scenes.

The problem I ultimately had with this movie was one of execution. Not the killing kind, the making things happen kind. For a movie which contained Russian language, you'd expect more from the subtitle work and efforts to make it comprehensible. Now, this movie deals with Russian and Polish interaction in a very odd way. When Polish characters are talking to Russian characters, they add in a guy who sounds nothing like the other characters to translate it into Russian. The problem, though, is that it kills all suspension of disbelief. And for those who argue that it's necessary for the movie's largely Russian audience, ask yourself one question: do you think that the characters had someone talking over the top of them? If there was a translator, I don't see why they couldn't have written them into the movie. If not, then how did it function?

Ultimately, if you enjoy the story, it seems a pretty faithful adaptation from the (albeit brief) research I've done. If you're just after a war movie, there are better ones out there.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Castle sieges and plenty of swordy goodness and guns.
Sex/Nudity: One girl gets her boobs out a few times, there’s some sex as well.
Swearing: None, though there’s plenty of vitriol in the speech.
Summary: A pretty good romp, and does what it sets out to do effectively. 6/10

Darkies Mob – The Secret War of Joe Darkie
John Wagner & Mike Western

Set against the savage realities of the Burma Conflict, Darkie’s Mob was one of Battle Picture Weekly’s most action-packed and revolutionary stories. Showcasing the shocking humour and stark characterisation of Darkie’s Mob, The Secret War of Joe Darkie introduces this unforgettable story of a renegade captain leading a rag-tag squad of British soldiers behind enemy lines, to a new generation of readers.

Johnny Red – Falcon’s First Flight
Tom Tully & Joe Colquhoun

Johnny Red: The Falcon’s First Flight is the first volume in an eagerly anticipated series reprinting the classic story by Tom Tully (Roy of the Rovers) and Joe Colquhoun (Charley’s War).

When pilot Johnny Redburn is discharged from the RAF for striking an officer, he is forced to join the Merchant Navy. But a German sneak attack forces Redburn back into the air — in a stolen Hurricane! Redburn aims for Russia, planning to save his plane and career, but on landing, meets the “Falcon Squadron” of the 5th Soviet Air Brigade, who are under German attack! Redburn takes to the skies once more — to fight for Russia!

Thanks to our friends at Titan Books, we've got a copy of each of these excellent books to give away to one lucky reader! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Saturday 3rd September, making sure to put "War Comics" as the subject. The first entry out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "War Comics" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Darkies Mob – The Secret War of Joe Darkie and Johnny Red – Falcon’s First Flight are both available now, courtesy of Titan Books.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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