“Darkest Hour” is a Boring Film Partially Saved by a Stellar Performance from Gary Oldman (Mini-Review)

mv5bmtgwnze3ndcwnf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmji2mzi0ndm-_v1_sy1000_cr006971000_al_It’s actually kind of amazing just how boring Darkest Hour (written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Joe Wright) is. It takes over an hour for this film about U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) to actually really get going, and even then it never elevates itself above made-for-tv biopic levels. Gary Oldman is truly stunning as Winston Churchill; he’s nearly unrecognizable! Between the makeup and the clear effort he’s put into not sounding like himself, Oldman completely loses himself in the role of Churchill, and his performance is probably the best part of the film. As I said, the pacing of the film is dreadful. The first hour of the movie moves by at the pace of a snail, doing nothing to really help you connect with any of the characters nor introducing the true central conflict of the film. The only reason the movie even comes close to succeeding is that all of the actors are enormously talented and play well off each other, especially Oldman and anyone who interacts with him.

mv5bmtkwode1mjg0nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwntqzoda1ndm-_v1_sy1000_cr0014991000_al_It’s sad, though, because at the edges of this film is a much more interesting story just itching to be told. Every now and then, the film will cut to one of the two female characters – Elizabeth Layton (Lily James), Churchill’s assistant, and Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas), Churchill’s wife – and explore how Churchill’s actions impact them and the impact they, in turn, have on him. Those elements are the most interesting elements in the film – aside from Oldman’s performance – and a film that explored how the people Churchill surround himself with – men and women – impacted his tenure as Prime Minister, and the decisions he made, would’ve been a far more interesting story than the one we were presented with. As it stands, Darkest Hour is a boring film. It takes forever to get going, and once it does get going, it never amounts to much of anything. It’s mostly competently directed, even featuring some fairly interesting camerawork by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, but Joe Wright’s directing is unable to make up for the sheer dullness of Anthony McCarten’s script. The film is mostly saved by the performances of the actors – chiefly Oldman, James, and Thomas – but even they can’t make this film truly interesting.

2.5 out of 5 wands

“Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery” is a Game Full of Potential that Misses the Mark (Beta-Review)

Screenshot_20180123-181634Portkey Games and Warner Bros. recently released an early access/beta version of the upcoming mobile game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Set in the decade before Harry Potter attended Hogwarts, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery allows players to create their own characters and experience life as a student at Hogwarts while living their own adventure – featuring a new story set in the universe of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – and encountering familiar characters along the way, such as Professor Dumbledore, Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Bill Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, and more. The game is the mobile game equivalent of a touch-and-click adventure where players tap various items on the screen to advance the story forward while collecting experience and other materials all under the confines of an energy meter system.

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“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a Mostly Competent Film that has Nothing to Say About its Subject Matter

mv5bztzjyzu2ntktntdmni00otm0ltg5mdgtngfjogmznjy0mdk5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtmxodk2otu-_v1_sx675_cr00675999_al_Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – which he wrote and directed – is a film that seems to be about life in small-town America where a woman – Mildred Hayes, played by Frances McDormand – feels that the local police department, led by Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), hasn’t been doing enough to solve the rape and murder of her daughter, so she rents three billboards just outside of town to broadcast a message she hopes will kick the police department into gear. The film explores the fallout from those billboards and how this unsolved murder and how Mildred’s actions affect the town as a whole. The problem with the film, however, is it doesn’t seem to have anything to say about the issue it tackles. The cops are all presented in fairly unsympathetic light throughout the film – and no amount of charming Woody Harrelson performances are able to change that; Mildred Hayes has a complete lack of any kind of a character arc – she starts off the film being angry about the police’s lack of progress and ends the film in pretty much the same spot, having learned no lesson and feeling no remorse for any of the events that have occurred throughout the film that are a direct result of her actions; and even goes so far as to try and get the audience to sympathize and forgive the cop that Sam Rockwell plays – a cop who is incompetent, sexist, and so racist that he actually tortured a person of color who was being held in custody. The film goes so far to try and redeem his character but offers no actual reason for the audience to forgive him. He doesn’t feel any remorse, so why are we supposed to suddenly forgive him just because he overheard something at a bar that caused him to actually to the bare minimum requirements of his job as a policeman? He doesn’t even do those bare minimum requirements well! His redemption arc consists of him mediocrely attempting the bare minimum of a decent cop and I’m supposed to root for him now? It just didn’t sit well with me.

mv5bztvinjq5zwmtyjzhoc00ndc1lwi3ndctnguxmmrimgvhzgnml2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzc2odk1mtg-_v1_sy1000_cr0013511000_al_Three Billboards isn’t a bad movie. It’s fairly funny at times and features a lot of really good performances from some really talented actors. As much as I want Sally Hawkins to win the Oscar for Best Actress, if she has to lose to anyone, Frances McDormand in this film is a good person to lose to. The directing is mostly competent as well and the pacing moves along at a fairly brisk pace. The problem with the film is the script and the poor storytelling it contains within it. Apparently, Martin McDonagh is an accomplished playwright and screenwriter, but having seen nor read anything else that he’s written, I’m confused by that assessment of his talents. He’s a fine director, sure, but in Three Billboards, he doesn’t seem to have anything to say about what he’s chosen to write about and he puts no effort into giving his characters any kind of arc or development. His script fails on almost every level. The film isn’t bad, but it doesn’t deserve the awards it’s getting. Some of the actors do, but the film itself is nowhere near the best film of 2017.

3 out of 5 wands

The X-Files Continues to be Extremely Inconsistent (“The X-Files” Season 11, Episodes 1-4 REVIEW)

the-x-files-season-11-posterIn a way, this latest season of The X-Files is a return to form for the show. From week to week, it goes from a really problematic episode to a really enjoyable one, to a mediocre one, and, finally, to a new classic for the show. Equally interesting is how the best episodes of the season so far have been the ones that weren’t written by Chris Carter. Picking up where 2016’s tenth season left off, Season 11 of The X-Files follow FBI Agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) as they work to stop an impending apocalypse, seemingly caused by the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), and continue to investigate the titular X-Files, a collection of cases that defy conventional thinking and explanation, while searching for their missing son, William, a boy who may just be the key to averting the apocalypse. (Mild spoilers for the first four episodes of Season 11 follow)

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“Batman: Gotham By Gaslight” is the Best Batman Movie in Years

mv5bytjhnjyymgitoddhoc00ztzmltk1mtmtzdrhmmzkytriogjkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtg2njyzoa-_v1_It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a remarkably well made Batman film. It’s even more impressive that said amazing film is a straight-to-DVD animated adaptation of a short Elseworlds graphic novel – a series of graphic novels from DC Comics that takes popular characters and places them in new situations/settings/etc. Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name, originally written by Brian Augustyn and featuring art from Mike Mignola, placing Bruce Wayne/Batman squarely in the late 1800s in Gotham City, where it seems that the infamous Jack the Ripper has relocated to continue his spree of terror by murdering women. Written by James Krieg and directed by Sam Liu, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight follows the Caped Crusader as he works – from the shadows – to stop Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror before it can get any worse while dodging the ever-suspicious Gotham police. If ever there were a crime from the world’s greatest detective, this would be it. (Mild spoilers follow.)  (more…)

Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” is More Concerned with Praising the Press than Doing its Story Justice (Review)

mv5bmjqymjewotiwnv5bml5banbnxkftztgwotkzntmxndm-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_I fully understand and appreciate the message that The Post tries to communicate. In this current political climate, it’s a very important one to support: Freedom of the Press is essential to the health of any democracy. The problem with The Post, however, is that it’s too focused on being an important movie that it doesn’t actually take the time to do the story its telling justice. It spends the whole movie telling us how important the press is but never gets around to actually showing us why the press is important. Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, The Post explores the cover-up, revealed by the infamous Pentagon Papers, that spanned four U.S. Presidents and pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher Meryl Streep) and a hard-driving editor (Tom Hanks) to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government. (Mild Spoilers follow)

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SCRIPT REVIEW: Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” is a Truly Remarkable Play with a Script That’s Bogged Down With Too Many Stage Directions

5517*NOTE: THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE SCRIPT, ONLY*
As part of my Directing class in school, I’ve had to some plays in preparation for the scene work that’s to come later in the semester. One of those plays was Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun. Nominated for four Tony Awards – including Best New Play, A Raisin in the Sun details the lives of the Younger family, an African American family living in Chicago in the 1950s. Set on Chicago’s South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis and matriarch Lena, called Mama. When her deceased husband’s insurance money comes through, Mama dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago. Walter Lee, a chauffeur, has other plans, however: buying a liquor store and being his own man. Beneatha dreams of medical school. The tensions and prejudice they face form this seminal American drama. Sacrifice, trust, and love among the Younger family and their heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration.  (more…)

A Mixed Bag of an Album That (in a way) Perfectly Lives Up to its Name. (Fall Out Boy – “Mania” album review)

fall out boy maniaA new Fall Out Boy album has been released, which means it’s time for me to revisit my days as a pop-punk kid! Released by Island Records and DCD2, Mania is the seventh studio album from Fall Out Boy and the followup to 2015’s American Beauty/American PsychoMania features a runtime of 36 minutes and contains the songs Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea”, “The Last of the Real Ones”, “Hold Me Tight or Don’t”, “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)”, “Church”, “Heaven’s Gate”, “Champion”, “Sunshine Riptide (featuring Burna Boy)”, “Young and Menace”, and “Bishops Knife Trick”.  (more…)

An In-Depth Behind the Scenes Look at a “Fairy Tale for Troubled Times” (“The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times” REVIEW)

81wgzinxhzlEveryone loves a good making-of documentary in the bonus features of the DVD of a film. Well, this book is the next best thing. Written by Gina McIntyre, The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times details the making of director Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, The Shape of Water. From the Publisher: From master storyteller, Guillermo del Toro, comes The Shape of Water—an other-worldly fairy tale set against the backdrop of the Cold War-era United States circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Doug Jones. Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times chronicles the entire filmmaking journey, from development to design to filming. Featuring interviews and commentary from key actors and members of the creative team, the book also showcases the amazing concept art and design work created for the film. For del Toro fans and movie lovers everywhere, it’s the perfect way to explore this exciting new movie from a master filmmaker known for his poignant storytelling and visual grandeur. (more…)

This Isn’t the Greatest Show (“The Greatest Showman” REVIEW)

mv5byjq0zwjkyjmtyjjmys00mjjiltg3ntytmmizn2e2y2ywzmuyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjk5nda3otk-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_The truly amazing thing about The Greatest Showman is the utter commitment and dedication the actors show to such mediocre material. And, on that note, it’s kind of a miracle that the music is somehow not the worst part of the film (and I really don’t care for Pasek and Paul’s music; they’re not bad, I just find them utterly mediocre and forgettable). Written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon, directed by newcomer Michael Gracey (with reshoots and edits allegedly by James Mangold), and featuring songs from Tony and Academy Award-winning songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, The Greatest Showman tells the story of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and his rise to fame through the advent of his famous circus, Barnum’s Circus. Joined by Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, and more, The Greatest Showman explores the lives of those around Barnum and how he and his circus forever changed the theatrical experience. (Mild spoilers ahead)  (more…)