Meet Joe Black

Death falls in love with the living threatening deadly consequences

What it’s about

Disguised as a human, Grim Reaper Joe Black comes to Earth to escort back the soul of media tycoon William Parrish. But Joe’s fascinating journey ends with him falling in love with William’s daughter.

My thoughts

What would happen if death fell in love with the living and the only way for them to be together was for death to take the life of the person he loves? This is the tantalising question that is asked in this film, and the journey to the final resolution is executed superbly.

If you’re not a fan of romances then it should be noted this is likely a film to miss, but if you do like romances and stories about the nature of love then this is a great watch.

Brad Pitt nails it as death, and Anthony Hopkins as ever puts in a stonking performance as the father of the daughter death loves, fighting to prove to death that he should not take the life of his daughter.

This film will make you think about the merits of love at first, and what it means to love full stop. All in all, most definitely entertaining, most definitely will make you think, most definitely worth watching. But like said only if you like romances.

Director: Martin Brest

Writer: Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade and Bo Goldman

Genre: drama, romance and fantasy

Year: 1998

Runtime: 181 minutes

Schindler’s List

One of the Most Remarkable Stories in History

What it’s about

Based on a true story. Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi party, tries to save his Jewish employees after witnessing the persecution of Jews in Poland.

My thoughts

Arguably no other story captures the horrors of the Holocaust and the fight to survive it better than this one. And no person who watches this film will ever see the world in the same way again. The fact it is based on a true story makes it all the more harrowing.

If you are easily upset then this is likely not a film for you, but if you want to understand just how evil man can be if given the chance and just how good man can be if given the chance and just why the world fought so hard to stop the Nazis, this film will tell you all you need to know.

In terms of the visuals, firstly this film is shot in black-and-white which is rare for a big budget modern film, but it most definitely works. Colours bring things to life but this is a story where life is hanging on by a thread which is why using black-and-white is such a powerful touch.

It really brings to life just how devoid and cold and colourless and evil the Nazi world was for a Jewish person, but it also allows that one shining hope which Oscar Schindler presented to his workforce to really shine through.

All in all this is simply a brilliant film worthy of all its accolades which include seven Oscars which means it gets a definite big thumbs up from me.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Steven Zaillian

Genre: biography, drama, historical

Year: 1993

Runtime: 195 minutes

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Ultimate Proof That Friendship Has No Prejudice

What it’s about

Bruno is the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp during WWII. His friendship with a Jewish boy he meets across the fence leads to unexpected consequences.

My thoughts

​This is a truly empowering story about friendship with an extraordinarily powerful message at its heart, which also captures brilliantly the horrors of the Holocaust and the madness of it without utilising any real violence. 

If you’re looking for a film that will leave you feeling happy at the end, this is not for you. But if you’re looking for a film that will change the way you see the world, then this is one of those films, because it’s a damn guarantee that after watching this you will never look at a person who thinks differently to you in the same way again.

For that reason and many more this film gets a definite thumbs up from me.

Director: Mark Herman

Writer: Mark Herman

Genre: drama, history, war

Year: 2008

Runtime: 94 minutes

Twelve Years a Slave

Riveting Tale about the Human Cost of Slavery

What it’s about

Based on a true story. Solomon Northup, a free African-American, is promised a fortnightly job by Brown and Hamilton. However, after arriving in Washington DC, he realises that he has been sold into slavery.

My thoughts

This film provides an excellent insight into the human cost of slavery and does very well at avoiding telling people what to think by focusing simply on telling a story and allowing the viewer to form an opinion.

It also does well at avoiding making this a story solely about skin colour, there are just people and some are bad, some are good and some are slaves, it is just in the story the slaves are black and that’s why they are slaves. 

A worthy winner of the best picture Oscar and most definitely worth watching as no person who watches this can watch it without by the end coming to the conclusion that if the world was a certain way, they could have been Solomon.

For those reasons along with the fact is a highly entertaining film it most definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

Director: Steve McQueen

Writer: John Ridley

Genre: biography, drama, historical

Year: 2013

Runtime: 134 minutes

Meet Joe Black

Death falls in love with the living threatening deadly consequences

What it’s about

Disguised as a human, Grim Reaper Joe Black comes to Earth to escort back the soul of media tycoon William Parrish. But Joe’s fascinating journey ends with him falling in love with William’s daughter.

What you will learn from watching it

​This is one of those films that most definitely will make you think specifically about the merits of love at first sight. And the way it goes about making you question the merits of it is simply genius.

A man and a woman meet in a coffee shop and really hit it off, then unbeknownst to that woman the man gets knocked over by a car. He is dead but death wanting to experience life takes over the man’s body and becomes Joe Black.

What follows is a fascinating love story, the woman turns out to be Susan Parrish the daughter of William Parrish who death has decided will be the man to teach him about the living world.

The question is does Susan Parrish love the man from the coffee shop or does she love death? This film is an investigation into that answer and a fascinating one at that, which will most definitely make you think.

Is the story any good

The story is loosely based on the 1934 classic novel death takes a holiday. However, Martin Brest who directed this film when talking about it mentioned that for years he had wanted to bring this film to life but struggled to find a way to make the premise work on screen, which likely explains why it went through eight different writers before it finally came to screen.

The premise is a fascinating one, and is along the lines of what would happen if death fell in love with the living and the only way for them to be together was for death to take the life of the person he loves but the person that he loves does not know that he is death, but instead thinks that death is the man that they fell in love with at first sight in a coffee shop one day?

Pretty long-winded and pretty complex which is no doubt why it went through eight different writers, it is also likely why the runtime is a staggering 181 minutes for what is at heart a very basic story.

But at its heart this is a very beautiful story, about a father’s love for his daughter, and in reality that’s what this film is a story about a father fighting to keep his daughter out of the hands of death.

This is very much an arty film but Anthony Hopkins performance is simply superb, Brad Pitt also puts in a stonking effort as death. The soundtrack for the movie composed by Thomas Newman is also extremely beautiful.

Meaning this is a beautiful story which is backed up with a beautiful soundtrack with excellent acting by the main characters. Which means yes the story is very good.

Final words

With a brilliant premise and a brilliant story normally I would be saying if you like stories about love then you should watch this film.

However, it should be noted that this film very much needs to be watched with a pinch of salt mentality, that means if you are a person that likes to tear a film apart then in all probability you will find this film a drag.

But if you are a person who is able to watch a film and see it for what it is, and you enjoy watching films about love then you will most definitely love this film.

That means this film gets a solid thumbs up from me, with a reminder that this is a three hour long love story.

Director: Martin Brest

Writer: Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade and Bo Goldman

Genre: drama, romance and fantasy

Year: 1998

Runtime: 181 minutes

Schindler’s List

One of the Most Remarkable Stories in History

What it’s about

Based on a true story. Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi party, tries to save his Jewish employees after witnessing the persecution of Jews in Poland.

What you will learn from watching it

​Arguably no other story captures the horrors of the Holocaust and the fight to survive it better than this one. And no person who watches this film will ever see the world in the same way again. The fact it is based on a true story makes it all the more harrowing.

Is it a one hundred percent accurate portrayal, no but the main narrative which shows what Oscar Schindler did and many of the obstacles he had to face in an effort to keep his Jewish workforce alive.

Meaning what this film does is present a solid snapshot of what it would have been like for Oscar Schindler and his workforce in Nazi German, and the lengths he had to go to to keep his Jewish workforce alive.

Is the story any good

The story was derived from a Booker prize-winning novel by Thomas Keneally, entitled Schindler’s Ark which presented a fictionalised account of the true story of Oscar Schindler.

The novel was in itself completely and entirely remarkable for its brilliance in telling this true story, and in the translation to film none of this brilliance has been lost.

Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Stevens Zaillian have combined brilliantly to bring this on to the big screen, and Liam Neeson puts in a dazzling performance as Oscar Schindler.

To say the least all in all this story is absolutely brilliant. Perhaps its greatest strength is that rather than turning it into a story of tragedy, it is a story in which there is an enormous tragedy but this is not a story of tragedy it is a story of the most human kind, where a man fights in his own way to keep alive those who a monstrous regime wishes to slaughter.

Final words

If you like dramas and stories of how one man through the choices he makes truly does have the power to make a difference then this is the film for you. The fact it is in black-and-white may put some people off, the fact it is a story of the Holocaust may but some people off, but in both cases this would be a mistake because this is truly an amazing story.

That means, without a shadow of a doubt this film gets super-sized thumbs up from me.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Steven Zaillian

Genre: biography, drama, historical

Year: 1993

Runtime: 195 minutes

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Ultimate Proof That Friendship Has No Prejudice

What it’s about

Bruno is the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp during WWII. His friendship with a Jewish boy he meets across the fence leads to unexpected consequences.

What you will learn from watching it

​This film brilliantly captures the horrors of the Holocaust and the madness of it without utilising any real violence.

But it is not the Holocaust or the atrocities of the Nazi’s that people will take from this film, what they will take from this film is a most beautiful but also heart-wrenching reality about friendship, and that reality which is shown without a hint of preaching is that hate is learnt and friendship truly does have no prejudice.

Is the story any good

Mark Herman directed this film and adapted the story from the novel of the same name which is written by John Boyne. And what a good job he has done, the story is both beautiful, poignant and completely and entirely heart wrenching.

A rare spoiler alert, this film will break your heart but in doing so it will open your mind to a reality that is so empowering it is worth the price.

And that is the power of the story, you know what is going to happen all the way through, you may hope for a different outcome, but you know what is going to happen and yet you can’t stop watching because the friendship that is growing between the two boys on either side of the fence, a Jewish boy and the son of a Nazi commander is such a beautiful friendship.

Final words

If you love stories of the most human kind, then you will love this film. But be warned, if you’re looking for a film that will leave you feeling happy at the end, this is not for you. But if you’re looking for a story that will change the way you see the world, then this is one of those, because it’s a damn guarantee that after watching this you will never look at a person who thinks differently to you in the same way again.

That means, without a shadow of a doubt this film gets monumental thumbs up from me.

Director: Mark Herman

Writer: Mark Herman

Genre: drama, history, war

Year: 2008

Runtime: 94 minutes

Twelve Years a Slave

Riveting Tale about the Human Cost of Slavery

What it’s about

Based on a true story. Solomon Northup, a free African-American, is promised a fortnightly job by Brown and Hamilton. However, after arriving in Washington DC, he realises that he has been sold into slavery.

What you will learn from watching it

This film provides an excellent insight into the human cost of slavery and does very well at avoiding telling people what to think by focusing simply on telling a story and allowing the viewer to form an opinion.

It also does well at avoiding making this a story solely about skin colour, there are just people and some are bad, some are good and some are slaves, it is just in this story the slaves are black and that’s why they are slaves.

A worthy winner of the best picture Oscar as no person who watches this can watch it without by the end coming to the conclusion that if the world was a certain way, they could have been Solomon.

Is the story any good

The story from this film is derived from the real-life memoirs of Solomon Northup, which was a bestseller back in its day in the 1850s. Despite this the book fell into relative obscurity until Louisiana University in the 1960s released a historically annotated version which thrust it back into public knowledge.

The memoirs provided an extensive account of just what it was like working as a slave in the deep South, as well as detailing Solomons experiences working on plantations. Considering this it is easy to see how this film could quite easily have turned into a history lesson that brilliantly presented what it was like for slaves in the deep South, but was boring as hell to watch.

Thankfully that does not happen as screenwriter John Ridley and director Steve McQueen have managed to find that perfect balance between focusing on the story while at the same time presenting an accurate image of the past.

What that means is this is very much a human story, and it is a human story that is told very well, so much so Solomon could have existed in any time and have been any person. And in that is the power of this story, and why it is such a brilliant one.

Final words

If you like historical dramas and are interested in learning about the slave trade, specifically what it was like for those trapped in it, then you will definitely like this film. But as this is very much a human story if you like dramas of the human kind then you will in all probability like this film, meaning this is a film which transcends its genre.

That means, all in all this film gets a solid thumbs up from me.

Director: Steve McQueen

Writer: John Ridley

Genre: biography, drama, historical

Year: 2013

Runtime: 134 minutes