Darkest Hour (2017)

Darkest Hour

The trailer said it best: Gary Oldman IS Winston Churchill.

For the life of me, I cannot remember learning much of anything about Winston Churchill. I may have heard his name in passing either in High School or in College, but that was really it (perhaps I was in the bathroom at the time my teacher would talk about him). That said, I have had to rely on depictions of him in media.

Many actors have played him in the past (most recently Brian Cox and John Lithgow). Now, in director Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour,  it is Gary Oldman’s turn at the plate. Forget knocking it out of the park: He knocks the cover off and the ball is shattered into pieces as what is left of the core is somewhere over the right field wall. We see Churchill as his party is getting ready to replace the disappointing Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Chamberlain) as Prime Minister. There is only one person the opposition will allow, and that is Winston.

This, of course, is just on the eve of World War two, with Hitler’s forces weakening that of England’s by the hour.  It is not needed to be said, but we do hear Clem Churchill (Kristin Scott Thomas) tell her husband how he has “the full weight of the world on your shoulders”. It is clear we can see the pain, frustration, and worry in every crevice of Churchill’s face (thanks, of course, to Oldman).

The problem I have with the film is that many parts do come out as rather dull. I was hoping for something somewhat edgier. It should be noted that the dull parts are mainly when Oldman is not on-screen. Perhaps it is because we already know what will eventually happen.

Thankfully, the strength of the movie is (if you have not guessed by now), Oldman’s performance. He is so into the character you really have to remind yourself that the actor is present at all. Any other actor may just have made this an impersonation, but Oldman is far too talented and experienced to give us that. We see the aforementioned worry, the humor (“I can only deal with one s*** at a time”), the flamboyance, the more than occasional rudeness (such as snapping at the young secretary played nicely by Lily James),and the sheer spirit of the prime minister.

Parents, the movie is PG-13 mainly for swearing (no F bombs, but a few swears here and there). Middle School and up.

The previously mentioned line of “having the weight of the world on your shoulders” could be paraphrased to say that Oldman has the weight of the whole movie on his. Which he carries with ease, power, charm, and grit.

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The Space Between Us (2017)

The Space between us

The chemistry between Butterfield and Robertson is rather good…

Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson have rather great chemistry in The Space Between Us, but even that chemistry is bombarded by a very unstable script that does not know what the audience wants to see.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who does not like an actor like Gary Oldman, but his scenes in the beginning go far too long. The movie tells the story of how Gardener Elliot (Butterfield), the first person born on Mars, comes to visit Earth. I can understand needing to know a little of how he got to be born on Mars, but the movie spends far too much time telling us about his mother (Janet Montgomery) leads the first mission to make a colony on Mars known as East Texas. His birth is supposed to be a secret, but he has managed to make a friendship with a girl on earth named Tulsa (Robertson), who has been in and out of foster care. Gardner mentions he is confided to home, due to an illness (which is technically true, since the gravity of Earth would mess up with his genetics).

After Gardner gets to Earth, and manages to make it to Tulsa (through uninteresting scenarios), we finally get to something worth watching. I am always a fan of good romance films (and am a proud sucker for “puppy love”), and the chemistry that Butterfield and Robertson has is the highlight of the film. Both work off each other with the skills of talented thespians (though both will get better with more work in the years to come). Neither are (in a sense) highly attractive, but are (oddly enough) much more down to earth.

Sadly, the other characters (including a mother like character played by Carla Gugino) reenter the film and bring the story down. I kept wishing the movie would have had a point of view, either from Gardner or Tulsa. Instead, we see them as outsiders.

Parents, there is some sensuality in the film (both leads are sleeping together in sleeping bags), and some swearing. Still, I would think the PG-13 rating is ok for those in Middle School and above.

Now a memo to my young readers. Please don’t be mad if I seem unaware of what a good romance movie can be. I want to say that you as young people can find far much better movies than this one. Films like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, City Lights, Before Sunrise, It Happened One Night, Singin’ in the RainMoonrise Kingdom, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Princess Bride, A Walk to Remember, and even the High School Musical movies (though I would guess you have seen them).

Those were some I admit I was thinking of wanting to re watch while watching The Space Between Us.

 

Overall: Two Stars **