Welcome to the movies at PS News.
Each week, PS News's film critic Victor Rebikoff will highlight the latest offerings from the silver screen and share his expert commentary for our information and guidance.
Director: Andrei Kravchuk, Twentieth Century Fox, Rated M, 124 mins
Award-winning Russian director of The Italian, Andrei Kravchuk has created a magnificent historical epic that is intertwined with a moving love story reminiscent of David Lean's classic Dr Zhivago.
Admiral is set against one of the most turbulent times in Russian history - between 1914 and 1920.
The central character is Admiral Aleksandr Vasilevich Kolchak (played superbly by Konstantin Khabenskiy, Wanted), a Rear Admiral in the Tsarist Russian Navy during World War 1 just before the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Kolchak becomes supreme commander of the White Russian forces and is later executed as a traitor by the Bolsheviks.
Within this powerful drama is also a poignant love story between Kolchak and Anna Timireva (beautifully portrayed by Elizaveta Boyarskaya), the wife of his best friend and fellow officer.
This spectacular film explores the demise of the opulent way of life of Imperial Russia as well as the brutal horrors of war, some of which are graphically depicted in the first rate battle sequences.
In addition to good performances from the ensemble cast-especially from Khabenskiy and Boyarskaya, the storyline is well scripted by writer Vladimir Ivanovich Valutsky.
Kravchuk focuses the entire story around Admiral Kolchak, beginning with him fighting off a German battleship attack on his vessel then following him as he leads the White Russian army against the revolutionary forces, ending in his death.
At times, the film’s cinematography is simply breath taking, having a cinematic grandeur of its own that allows the audience to actually feel that they are part of the unfolding events of this historical drama.
Admiral is truly a stirring story of love and war - in particular of heroism, honour and patriotism – that will leave an indelible mark those who have the opportunity to view it.
It is also fair to say that this screen biography is one of the best films to come out of Russia.
VIC'S VERDICT: 4½ Rubber Stamps
Director: Vladimir Bortko, Central Partnership, Rated M, 129 mins
Vladimir Vortko’s version of Taras Bulba is unlike J. Lee Thompson’s American version (released in 1962) that starred Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis.
This first Russian language version of Nikolai Gogol’s classic drama is a sprawling spectacle of sword-rattling patriotism entwined within a love story and staged against the centuries old conflict between the Cossacks and their Polish oppressors.
The story revolves around the Cossack warrior, Taras Bulba (dramatically portrayed by Bogdan Stupka), who finds himself at the centre of political controversy and turmoil after his eldest son Andrey (Igor Petrenko) falls in love with a Polish woman.
Andrey returns from a Polish academy - having been sent there to learn aspects of Polish warfare - in love with Polish noblewoman, Elzhbeta (Magdalena Mielcarz).
On the other hand, Bulba’s other son, Ostap (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) is captured by the Poles and publicly executed in a particularly gruesome manner.
This causes the enraged Taras Bulba to raise his army of Cossacks to take on the Poles-despite Andrey’s love for Elzhbeta.
A dramatic father-son confrontation takes place over Andrey’s rejection of his Cossack and Orthodox traditions as well as the betrayal of his ‘Russian homeland’.
Set in the 16th century and filmed in Southern Ukraine, Bortko’s Taras Bulba is certainly compelling viewing with plenty of swashbuckling action sequences, a great deal of realism and what is clearly an excessive level of violence being depicted in many of the battle scenes between the Cossacks and the Poles.
Despite some cinematic flaws in this Russian version, Taras Bulba is still a wonderful rendition of Gogol’s most famous heroic drama with some good performances from the ensemble cast especially from Magdalena Mielcarz and most of all, an outstanding performance from lead actor Bogdan Stupka.
VIC'S VERDICT: 3½ Rubber Stamps
Angels and Demons
Release Date: 7 October 2009
Director: Ron Howard, Rated M, 138 mins
Angels & Demons is based upon the bestselling novel of the same name by controversial author Dan Brown.
The film reteams Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard with superstar Tom Hanks who returns to the role of religious symbologist Robert Langdon.
Langdon is asked by the Vatican to help find four cardinals kidnapped by an ancient religious sect known as the ‘Illuminati’, who have also been complicit in a powerful scientific device being stolen from Italian physicist, Vittoria Vetra (beautifully played by Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer).
To add further realism to his intriguing and suspenseful story, Howard filmed his movie in Rome against the backdrop of the Vatican mourning the passing of a beloved Pontiff and the gathering of the College of Cardinals to choose the Pope’s successor.
In this fast paced thriller Langdon and Vetra must race against the clock through sealed crypts, deserted cathedrals, and dangerous catacombs to follow a series of ancient symbols to prevent the Illuminati from killing the four Cardinals and destroying the Vatican using the stolen scientific device.
And adding to the overall enjoyment of this DVD is the movie’s conclusion – a really amazing ending that is just mind-blowing.
Angels & Demons is a thoroughly entertaining DVD that is compelling viewing, with wonderful performances from Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer, as well as from Ewan McGregor (playing the Camerlengo, the person who assumes control of the Vatican until a new Pope is chosen).
It also features some wonderful cinematic locations and a great musical score that enhances the fast moving storyline.
Incorporated within Sony’s release is a fascinating array of special features.
There are eight in total, including one titled Angels and Demons: The Full Story which provides an interesting insight into the story behind the movie which makes acquiring this DVD a must for one’s home library collection.
VIC'S VERDICT: 4½ Rubber Stamps