Movie Review: The Zookeepers Wife

There have been understandably thousands of movies made about World War 2, mainly because it is the most compelling and most important story in human history. World War 2 is a 6 year period of human history that was easily the worst in terms of the destruction of so many cities and the death of so many hundreds of millions of people. World War 2 demonstrated the worst that humanity has ever shown and that there is no measurable lower limit to the atrocities people can inflict on other people. One could probably argue that of all the many thousands of World War 2 movies, that “The Zookeepers Wife” is the first film that involves the owners of a Zoo in Warsaw Poland; Jan and Antonina Zabinski, played by Jessica Chastain. Just like the rest of Poland on September 1, 1939, the Warsaw Zoo was bombed during the German invasion. I thought that during this invasion, this film did a very good job at showing the injuries and death of some of the animals while not actually showing the actual killing in any sort of gory or unnecessary detail. Animals just like all life during this time had to pay a price for the worst time in human history.

Where this movie fails is that it was not different enough or unique enough for me to be that memorable. While this is a true story, we have all seen the War movies where people are being hidden from the Germans and rescued from certain death and evil German officers who indiscriminately kill people and as in this movie, even innocent animals in a Zoo. There are also problems with continuity where Antonina is suddenly giving birth and we never even knew that she was pregnant, almost as if a major mistake was made while film editing. This also happens in few other areas of the film, although not as glaring as this obvious error. There is another Zookeeper from Berlin, who eventually becomes the German officer and villain in this story, but he is not nearly as bad as so many evil German officers have been in so many other World War 2 movies. I thought that this was another problem with this film because there was not enough conflict with the Zookeeper’s wife and her husband and this German officer, that might have made the story more memorable.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty average and run of the mill World War 2 movie so I only give it a very mild recommendation.

TV Series Review: Crashing

The subject of the new series “Crashing” on HBO is about what a person really faces when they want to go into show business and into probably the toughest art form there is; stand-up comedy. We all see the few who succeed and make millions of dollars through TV shows, movies and stand-up specials. We all know about the Kevin Hart’s, Amy Schumer’s and Jerry Seinfeld’s who have made it big and have the life far beyond what they probably thought was ever possible. However, we don’t hear about the thousands who struggle for years and are forever poor and suffer and never make it. The show Crashing portrays some of this nightmare life but tries to make it funny which is a difficult thing to do considering what people who decide to choose this kind of life have to live through.

The story behind Crashing is about a man, played by Pete Holmes, who has the desire to do stand-up, is married and being supported by his wife. One day he catches her having an affair with another man and the marriage immediately ends and then he has to find couches to sleep on with the different people he meets while trying to make it in New York City comedy clubs. As Amy Schumer mentioned in her book, the reality of anyone starting in stand-up clubs in New York City is that you have to go out and hand out fliers and if you get a defined amount of people to attend the comedy show, maybe you can get some time on stage. This time on stage may or may not include even an audience and very often the comedy club is a very low paying flop house. This aspect of the stark reality and the paying of dues is very well done in Crashing as well as Pete Holmes almost having to beg for a couch to sleep on just about every night.

The lead actor and creator of Crashing is Pete Holmes who has been a stand up for a number of years and even has his own YOUTUBE channel. He is a good stand-up comedian, mostly unknown and he would know as well as anyone, how hard it is to make it as a comedian, and more importantly the extreme gamble you are making with your entire life, the point being is that if you are 40 and have tried to make it for 15 years, and it doesn’t work out, what do you do? What is your skill? How can you possibly make a living after 15 years of traveling the country and barely surviving?  I have always thought that this life should be the subject of a movie that shows what is really like for so many people who think they are funny and just have to try this risky life gamble.  I recommend the Amy Schumer  book “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo”, because she mentions some of the struggles she went through in stand-up comedy that included after finishing 4th on the TV show last comic standing, then going on a bus tour and bombing in 90% of her performances during that tour. Early in her career, even Schumer had to pass out fliers in the hope of maybe getting some time on stage.  On top of everything you are risking and the inevitable bad times, the bottom line is that stand-up comedy is an extremely difficult art form to master.

I highly recommend the HBO series Crashing, which will have its season finale this Sunday.