Tag Archives: world war II

Movie Review – The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

War!  Intrigue!  Nazis vs. Zoo animals!

BQB here with a review of The Zookeeper’s Wife.

Based on a true story, this film tells the tale of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, owners/operators of the Warsaw Zoo who used their property to save persecuted Jews during World War II.

Before the war, Jan (Johan Heldenburgh) and Atonina (Jessica Chastain), live an idyllic life.  They love animals and they take care of zebras, elephants, lions, tigers, all sorts of exotic animals on their sprawling property.  They even do a good business, charging admission.

Alas, all this changes because of the Nazis.  Oh you dirty Nazis, you’re always the turd in history’s punch bowl, aren’t you?

The Zabinskis’ zoo is partially destroyed by Nazi bombs dropped all over the city.  What’s left is confiscated.  The animals are shot and turned into meat and soap for the Nazi war effort.

Sidenote:  Whether it’s during World War II or more recently in Venezuela, once the government resorts to shooting zoo animals for food, shit is not good.

Back to the review.  Long story short, what’s left of the zoo is turned over to Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a German zoologist who had once been a friend of the Zabinskis in happier times.  Sadly, once Lutz puts on a Nazi uniform and becomes Hitler’s official zoologist, he gets a little too drunk on power and becomes an insufferable douchen-dorfer.

You know you want to see this movie just because the villain is a Nazi zoologist, don’t you?

Anyway, being the good people that they are, the Zabinskis begin rescuing and hiding their close Jewish friends.  Pretty soon, they realize that with underground tunnels once used to house tigers, buildings and trucks, they have all the means necessary to run a Jewish rescue/hiding/smuggling to safety operation.

The danger comes from the fact that they must do all this right under the nose of their ex-friend turned Nazi.

Will the Zabinskis be successful?  Will they be caught?

You’ve got to watch to find out.

Overall, it’s a touching story.  So many stories came out of WWII and they continue even today.

Much credit is due to the Zabinskis.  They probably could have relied on their friendship with a Nazi to ride out World War II by just keeping their heads down and going about their business.  Instead, they put themselves into great danger and in doing so, saved the lives of hundreds of people.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  A good movie, sort of an Oscar-bait film designed to show off Jessica Chastain’s acting chops.  Not necessary to rush out to the theater but it’s worth a rental.

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Movie Review – Allied (2016)

You must remember this, a yeti I did kiss…but it was against my will!

But I won’t bore you with the behind the scenes hullabaloo of being a Yeti hostage.

France!  Morocco!  Ooo la la!  BQB here with a review of Hollywood’s first Oscar bait movie of the season, Allied.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING.

In early 1940s French Morocco, Canadian spy Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) meets French lady spy Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard).  The duo become immersed in a whirlwind romance as they hunt Nazis together and bone in a gratuitous manner.

Alas, when they marry and head off to England, Max’s superiors begin to suspect Marianne of pulling double-duty as a spy for the Nazis.  Thus, Max is charged with the unenviable task of sniffing out the truth.

Fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood will be very impressed with this film.  With the French Morocco scenes, its almost as if we are treated to a visit to the Casablanca of Bogart’s time, except in this go-around we get to see it in full color, high definition and with more special effects, flying bullets and assorted war mayhem.

Yes, there is room for an argument that Casablanca was all the better off for not having all the bells and whistles of a modern film as such trivialities might have spoiled that classic.  And certainly this movie does not surpass the Bogie/Bergman picture that most movie critics agree is one of (if not the best) films ever produced, but it did make me yearn for a time when a man would wear a suit and a fedora just to get a cup of coffee.

Brad Pitt is every bit a classic style movie star in a time when thought provoking films are being more and more replaced with flicks revolving around costumed super heroes (not that I’m complaining as I love those films as well but I wonder why there isn’t room for both.)

Moreover, Pitt is truly one of the best preserved fifty-something year olds I have ever seen.

Meanwhile if Pitt is Bogie, then the Bergman of this film is Cotillard.  After years of being the go-to French actress in films that call for a French character, she has been rewarded handsomely with this role.

Overall, the film is visually pleasing with a plot that keeps you munching popcorn.  It will face some stiff competition come Oscar time, but gold statues (or at least nominations) for Pitt, Cotillard and Director Robert Zemeckis would not surprise me.

STATUS: Play it again, Sam.  Shelf-worthy and worth a trip to the theater.  Good date film. Dudes, take your lady because it is so emotional that you might get a little smooch-a-roo-ski out of this.

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Movie Trailer – Allied (2016)

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

Allied looks pretty good. Brad Pitt. Marion Cotillard.

Looks like a modern take on Casablanca.

Check out the trailer:

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Movie Review – Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Sometimes a conscientious objector can still be a badass, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Hacksaw Ridge.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING

This film tells the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an Army medic who became the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor after saving seventy-five men during the Battle of Hacksaw Ridge in World War II Japan.

Having experienced too much violence as a young man, the devoutly religious Doss vows to never commit violence and would rather die than hurt anyone, even if that someone is about to hurt him.

Naturally, the Army is puzzled as to why the hell he voluntarily signed-up if he won’t carry a rifle.

His superiors, played by Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington, go out of their way to get him tossed out of the army as they can’t fathom the idea of a soldier who is unwilling to learn how to shoot a weapon.

Will Doss earn their respect in the end?

The first half of the film is a tad hokey.  Lots of war movie cliches mixed in with Doss’ battle with the brass to pass basic training without touching a gun.

The second half is a blood and guts fest. Explosions and gun fire galore. Stabbings, mutilations, flame throwers, grenades, missing limbs, all kinds of gore.

Movies are able to speak with images and the message the director is giving us is, “war is hell.”

Some films and the overall media try to capture what it is like to be a soldier and fail.  Patriotic movies are all well and good but this movie takes us onto the battle field in all of its “Holy shit my friend just got his face blown off and now a guy is stabbing me and holy crap my face is on fire and my leg just got blown off!” butt puckering glory.

Thus, if you want to join the army, make sure you’re joining for the right reasons (not just because a spiffy uniform is involved) and understand there will be many butt puckering moments you won’t be able to even comprehend until you face them.

Further, politicians should consider what soldiers must go through during war time and avoid war at all costs.

That’s the message I took away from it, anyway.

It’s definitely an underdog story as Doss takes heaps of abuse from his unit for his non-violent ways only to prove his bravery and save tons of men on the battlefield.

Speaking of underdogs, Mel Gibson’s career is also on the line here.

You remember Mel, don’t you?

Beloved actor/director. Starred in and directed a lot of great movies. Had a reputation of “Well, if Mel’s in it then it will be good” and then he had some, well, I won’t get into the details but let’s just say some well documented breakdowns.

Since then, he’s starred in some films that were sort of blah.  This is Hollywood letting him at the helm with a big budget and a great script so…I mean the film is fabulous Oscar bait and though I don’t wear my emotion on my sleeve, even I found myself crying as Desmond proved all the naysayers wrong…

…but, it is still hard to get over those nasty rants, Mel.  I don’t know.  You might have to cure cancer or something.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy and worth a trip to the theater for the explosions, but skip the popcorn if you don’t want to hurl once the guts and limbs and assorted body parts start flying.

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A Guide to the Bookshelf Battleverse – Part 7 – Pop Culture Mysteries

Just as Cheers begat Frasier and Friends begat Joey, so too did the Bookshelf Battle Blog begat Pop Culture Mysteries.

You wish your blog had a spinoff.

DELILAH K. DONNELLY

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Attorney Delilah K. Donnelly of the Los Angeles based law firm of Donnelly and Associates is considered one of the finest lawyers in Hollywood, known for her ability to make impossible deals happen and free even the most guilty looking suspects.  Needless to say, her services cost a pretty penny.

Thus, it’s a mystery as to why she voluntarily serves as Lead Counsel for the Bookshelf Battle Blog, holding BQB’s hand in all murky matters and acting as the rock he needs to lean on when times get tough.

A woman of perfect poise and posture, elegance, class, and refinement, she carries herself in an old fashioned manner, though she gets along just fine in modern times, eating most men who cross her for breakfast with a cunning quip.

Intensely guarded when it comes to her personal life, BQB is fully aware of how lucky he is to have such high caliber representation for a website with only 3.5 readers.

JAKE DASHING

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One of the most infamous lawmen of the twentieth century, Jacob R. Dashing left his hometown of Bayonne, NJ at age 18 with his then girlfriend, Hettie May Blodgett.  The young couple made their way to Tinseltown with stars in their eyes and dreams of fame in their hearts.

Dashing wanted to be an actor, Hettie a singer.  Since Dashing became a drunk and Hettie went on to become legendary Jazz singer Peaches LeMay, the deal worked out a bit better for his better half.

A budding career as a boxer was cut short when Mugsy McGillicuddy’s gang forced him to take a dive lest Peaches sleep with the fishes.

The Jersey Jabber” sought redemption and found it during World War II, when he was recruited for a top secret mission to punch Adolf Hitler in the face.

Through Attorney Donnelly, BQB and Dashing are currently in negotiations regarding the production of a novel based on Operation Fuhrerpunschen.

Such a move may be risky, as there are forces who would prefer to see the details of this mission stay buried.

Following WWII, Jake found employment with the LAPD, rising to the level of detective, and later became a private investigator.

His three ex-wives include:

  • Trixie, who slept with Jake’s partner, Mickey, but insisted she was fooled.  Since she wasn’t the brightest bulb, her claim wasn’t that far fetched.
  • Muffy, who shot Jake six times, but loved him enough to miss every vital organ.
  • Connie, who was the most loyal woman Jake ever knew, but alas he drove her away with his booze addiction.

POP CULTURE MYSTERIES

In 1954, Jake fell asleep at his desk.  When he woke up, it was 2014.  The Tsang family, who considered him an honorary member, took care of him for close to sixty years while he was dozing.

Cell phones.  Computers.  Color TV.  Women wearing pants and acting like they own the joint.  2014 was not a world that Jake recognized, and he began searching for answers.  Why did he sleep for nearly sixty years and was it possible to return to his own time?

A year later, in the summer of 2015, Delilah K. Donnelly walked into Jake’s office, offering answers…for a price.

Her client, Bookshelf Q. Battler, claimed to have the answers Jake was looking for, and would reveal him in exchange for Jake’s agreement to solve one hundred pop culture mysteries.

The notorious lawman felt a bit silly taking on questions as foolish as “What happened to the original Brady Bunch spouses?” but decided it was worth it if it would get him back to the 1950s.

Like most hardboiled noir style private detectives, Jake is prone to speaking in long, exaggerated monologues.

To date, BQB and Jake have never met.  Attorney Donnelly delivers BQB’s pop culture questions to Jake out of an entirely astute fear that Jake will just strangle the shit out of him until he makes with the answers.

Remember, 3.5 readers.  Many bloggers claim to be great, but only Bookshelf Q. Battler has pissed off a trained Nazi killer/boxer/detective for your personal amusement.

Keep that shit in mind when you’re doling out the leibsters, nerds.

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Pop Culture Mysteries: Sneak Peak of Operation Fuhrerpunschen

shutterstock_193545215Before he became BQB’s Pop Culture Detective, Jake Hatcher was a down and out boxer forced by the evil Mugsy McGillicuddy to take a dive, thus tanking his chance at the big time, not to mention his budding romance with singer Peaches LeMay.

When Jake tries to escape his past by enlisting, he gets a second chance at the greatness he missed out on when he’s recruited by General George S. Patton, President Roosevelt, and Pre-CIA Agent Carmichael to take on the most daring mission in the history of warfare:

Infiltrate Das Fuhrerbunker and punch Adolf Hitler in the face before an equally skilled puncher sent by the Russians can.

Why?  Assassination attempts by his own men have left Hitler paranoid in the final days of World War II.  He’s banned all staff from carrying weapons, leaving him the only armed individual in the bunker.

No guns.  No knives.  Nothing.

Thus, Uncle Sam needs a man whose weapon is his fist.

Is this a viable novel idea?  Would you want to read a book about Hitler getting punched in the face?

The first three proposed chapters and outline of the rest:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Outline of Rest 

Tear it apart, 3.5 Readers.  Be brutal and let me have it.

By the way, the Mr. Devil Man sneak peak was well received by the 3.5 and I plan on working on that too.  Ultimately, I hope to put both out.

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Pop Culture Mysteries: Operation Fuhrerpunschen (Chapter 1)

In theory, if Jake were to write a second novel after Mr. Devil Man about his time in World War II and specifically about how he punched a certain dictator in the face, these three chapters might be how it would begin.

Feedback, criticism (especially negative) welcomed and appreciated.

Operation Torch

November, 1942

French Morocco

The last drop of water tumbled out of my canteen and onto my tongue, providing momentary refreshment until a grim reality set in:

None of us had a clue where our next source of hydration was going to come from.

Clank.  Clank.  Clank.

“I hate your guts Dag,”  I said as I laid down across the side of the M4 Sherman Tank under my command.  “Before we all die of heatstroke out here I just want you to know that.”

Clank.  Clank.  Clank.

Victor “Dag” D’Agostino was my mechanic, a fast talking Italian fella from Brooklyn, not all that far from my hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey in the grand scheme of things.  He was a decent enough guy, though a little twitchy.  He was a real bundle of nerves, able to fly into a blind rage at the slightest provocation.

Luckily, he was a small fry so he wasn’t able to do too much damage.

“Got any 7’s?”

On the opposite side of the turret, a no holds barred game of Go Fish was underway.

“Go fish.”

“No.  Look, right here.  You have a seven.  If someone asks you if you have a seven, you’re supposed to fork it over dummy.”

I closed my eyes and listened to the Southern drawl of my second-in-command, Corporal Samuel T. Calhoun.  He was a big fella, at least 6’5” and packing two-bucks and some change of solid muscle.  It was a bitch to share a tank him on account of his massive size, but I was glad he was on our side.

“Larry,”  Sam said.  “I can’ t for the life of me figure out how we’ve been playing this all damn day and you still don’t know the rules.”

“I can’t figure out why two red blooded American males aren’t playing poker,”  I interjected.

“Nothing to bet with Sarge,” came Sam’s reply.  “Except sand, sand and more sand.”

Clank.  Clank.  Clank.

“I can’t gamble anyway,”  Larry added.  “I promised Lorraine before I left that this war wasn’t going to turn me into a disciple of the devil and by God I’m going to keep that promise.”

Sam and I groaned.  I don’t remember what we each said, but it was along the lines of “Oh for the love of” and “not this again.”  We made our lamentations at the same time.

Private Larry Torkilsen was a freckle faced, red-haired Iowa boy, straight out of the corn field and as naive about the world as he was goofy looking.  None of us had the heart to tell him that Lorraine had probably run off with a Good Time Charlie as soon as he shipped out.

“Does this girl even exist?”  Sam asked. 

“Of course she does, here’s a picture.”

A moment passed.  A few more clanks and then a, “BLECH!.”

Larry walked around the turret to visit me.  I was feeling feint from being baked alive under the hot North African sun so naturally, there was a part of me that wanted to tell the kid where to shove his photograph.

On the other hand, the private’s scrawny carcass blocked the sun’s rays, giving me a little relief, but not much.

“Wanna see my girl, Sarge?”

“Give it here.”

I opened my eyes to see a snaggle toothed walrus of a gal, but even under the stress of the predicament I was in, I recalled two of Ma Hatcher’s most important lessons:

1)  It’s what’s on the inside that matters.

2)  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

“Top notch broad you’ve got there, Larry,”  I said as I handed the photograph back.  “If I were you I’d be all over that like stink on a monkey.”

Clank.  Clank.  Clank.

“Thanks Sarge,”  Larry said.  The kid sat down a few inches from my feet and allowed his to dangle over the side of the giant metal beast.

Crapola.  He was probably going to want to talk.

“You ever get scared, Sarge?”

I could literally feel my flesh searing.  I felt like a nice juicy porterhouse must feel when it hits the frying pan.

“Please,”  Sam interrupted as he took a seat on top of the turret.  “The Sarge has a big ole pair of brass clankers.”

“Everyone gets scared now and then,”  I said.  “Anyone who tells you they don’t is a damn liar.”

Finally, some silence….but not for long.

Clank.  Clank.  Clank.

“But the person who should be scared is Dag, who was given…”

I raised my voice to make sure the little twerp would be able to hear me through all the racket he was making.

“…A DIRECT ORDER TO HAVE THIS CONTRAPTION IN TIP TOP SHAPE BEFORE WE LEFT!”

“What?!”

Dag lifted his head away from the engine.  He was still wearing his leather helmet with the goggles that made his beady little eyes look bigger than they wear. 

“What do you want?!  Do you think I asked for this?!”

I sat up.  The three of us became an audience ready to take in a comedy show we’d seen plenty of times before.

“Do you think I was sitting there one day in my ma’s kitchen, gobbling up one of her delicious Sunday dinners, thinking to myself, ‘Holy Shit, I really hope that a bunch of shit head politicians will decide that I have to travel all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to some Godforsaken desert wasteland just so I can fight a bunch of Krauts who stole a wasteland from the Frogs who, by the way, stole it from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves or whoever the shit owned this shit hole first.”

I apologize, modern 3.5 readers.  People weren’t very nice when it came to talking about race back in those days.  Looking back on it, I was ahead of my time in my progressiveness.  I never used words like, “Krauts” or “Frogs” when “Germans” and “French” would do.

“You’re right, Sarge,”  Dag continued.  “This is all my fault, because after I wished to be snatched up and sent over here, I also got down on my hands and knees and prayed to God every single night to please, please stick me in the shittiest excuse for a tank in the Third U.S. Army.”

“It’s been three days, Dag,”  I said.  “Can you fix the engine or not?”

Ever the clown, Dag reached a hand down into the back of his pants and fished around.

“I dunno,”  Dag said.  “Let me see if I have any spare parts up my ass.”

“Probably not with your head taking up all the room,”  Sam said.

Dag lifted up his goggles, threw down his wrench and put up his dukes.

“You wanna go, Hayseed?”

Sam unfurled himself to his full standing length.  The Empire State Building with legs is the best description of the guy I can think of.

“Anytime, Dago!”

3.5 readers, it was the 1940’s, OK?  I’m not excusing it, but I can’t whitewash history either.

“Enough!”  I shouted.

The men piped down.

“Dag,”  I said.  “Do you realize we’re missing the war?”

“Yes,”  Dag replied.  “Hell, you should be thanking me.”

“Thanking you?”  I asked.  “Someday they’re going to sing songs about how Patton shoved his .357 Magnum up Rommel’s ass and the only thing I’m going to be able to tell my grandkids is that I sat around in the desert with a broke tank and a gallon of sand up my ass crack!”

“That’s if we make it back at all,”  Sam said.  “No water.  We can start walking now and it’ll be days before we reach any kind of civilization.”

“Maybe we should of started walking while we still had some water,”  Dag said with a smarmy look on his stupid puss.

“Maybe I thought you weren’t such a moron that you’d be able to fix this rust bucket!”

“Oh yeah?” 

In the distance, there was the slightest sound coming over the horizon.  Larry was the only one paying any attention.

“Hey…fellas?”

“Well,”  Dag said as he waved a finger in my face.  “Maybe YOU’RE the moron for thinking I’M not a moron!”

Dag instantly regretted that statement as Sam and I bursted out laughing.

The sound got louder.  It was a bunch of men yelling.

“Does anyone else hear that?”  Larry asked.

“Quit your bellyaching and get back in there,”  I said.  “I don’t want to see your ugly mug again until this rattle trap is ready to roll, see?”

“GUYS!”

Larry was whiter than a ghost that had fallen into a vat of vanilla ice cream.  We turned around to see what he was pointing at. 

No,” I thought.  “It can’t be.”

I grabbed my binoculars and got a better gander.

There they were.  Over a hundred Moroccan riders galloping their horses faster than bats out of hell right at us.  They wore turbans, long flowing robes and scarves protected their faces from the sand that was whipping up into the air all around them.

They all had those fancy curved swords. Scimitars they called them.  Every rider had one and was swinging it around in the air.

Plink.  Plank.  A few of them had even embraced more modern weaponry, given the rifle shots that were ricocheting off the tank’s hull.

Dag made a run for the hatch and popped it open.

We all piled inside.

The last thing I heard before I pulled the hatch shut?

“LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!!!!”

Copyright Bookshelf Q. Battler 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

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Unbroken – Movie Review (2014)

WARNING:  Spoilers ahead.

Life – it’s all a matter of perspective.

The next time I pour a bowl of cereal and feel a fit coming on when I realize there’s no more milk, I’ll take a deep breathe and remember the choice Louis Zamperini had – jump out of his life raft and into water infested with hungry sharks, or stay in and risk being shot by a Japanese aircraft doing a strafing run overhead.

When you think about a situation like that, it kind of makes the little, everyday nuisances that we allow to drive us crazy seem trivial, doesn’t it?

How about when Louis, after spending so much time drifting in a raft at sea, only to be thrown in a brutal POW camp where he’s tortured and beaten, suddenly gets an offer from the Japanese government – read an anti-American statement over the radio and you’ll be allowed to live out the rest of the war in nice accommodations, with all the food and luxuries you want.

Naturally, we all say, “No, I’d never take that deal.”  As a mere, humble book blogger, I’ll never find myself in such a situation, but I’d like to think I’d tell my captors where they could stick such a deal.  Do any of us really know how we’d respond to such an offer until we find ourselves in that position?  Heroically, Louis refuses the deal.

Overall, it is a movie about choices – forks in the road where Louis could have gone in one direction or the other.  In his youth, he was an angry little punk who was a menace to his town until his older brother convinced him to channel his energy into joining the track team.

He becomes an amazing runner, good enough to go all the way to the pre-World War II Olympics (which, ironically, were held in Germany),  leading to an eerie scene where American, German, and Japanese athletes are all standing around like friends – who knew at the time that would be the last time they’d be doing that for awhile.  He’d hoped to return to the next Olympic Games, which had been scheduled to be held in Tokyo of all places, but we all know how that turned out.

It’s hard to find a more class act than Louis.  His fellow POW’s are ordered to punch him in the face.  He’s more worried about telling them it is ok and to not feel bad about it than he is about, well, his face.

I could go on and on, but you get the drift.  The next time I’m late for work and ready to fling myself off a cliff because I can’t find my keys, I will think about brave Louis defying the Japanese POW camp Sgt. and lifting the beam over his head, and realize that I am a major wuss in comparison.

The movie is based on author Laura Hillenbrand’s non-fiction book of the same name.  You might remember her as the author of another non-fiction work turned movie, Seabiscuit.  

I’ve never read either book and unfortunately, I have a bad habit of never reading a book once they’ve made a movie about it.  If you’ve read either one, or just want to commiserate about how Louis makes us all look like pansies when compared to his saint-like bravery, feel free to do so in the comment section.

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