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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Baby Driver (2017)

Baby Driver

The only thing that may rival Baby’s driving skills is his playlist.

Very few things irritate me more than seeing people drive with headphones on. I am not stating I am the safest driver, and I almost always have music on when I drive. Still, headphones when you drive? So stupid, in my opinion. Possibly the worst thing about Baby Driver is that it may encourage drivers to listen to their music on headphones.

Anyway, enough on my driving opinions: you want to know my opinion on Baby Driver, and it is easily the most exhilarating heart pounding time I have had on the streets this side of Fury Road. It is another great action pick that shows that you can have all the CGI in the world (thought it actually looks like they were really all driving) but it means nothing if the script is strong and the actors are on their A game.

The film tells the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort, the male lead of The Fault of the Stars), a child delinquent whose parents died in a car crash and left him with a constant ringing in his head. After stealing the car of  Doc (Kevin Spacey), he is forced to be the getaway driver of Doc’s heists until he can pay off his dues. While Doc is obviously powerful enough to destroy Baby’s life in a heartbeat, there is no doubt he takes a liking to Baby (and it also totally helps that it is Kevin Spacey who is filled with his unbeatable charm.)

Many of the others in the groups that Baby drives (Doc does not like using the same group more than once) will question Doc if Baby is right or not. It does not take them (or us) long to see that Baby is such an elite driver it is as if he plays the Grand Theft Auto games in his spare time.

What is also so likeable (even lovable) about Baby is his heart. In one scene, the group steals a car of a mom and her child, who Baby makes sure to give to the mother. He still cares for his ailing deaf foster dad (CJ Jones).  He also starts taking a liking to the local waitress, Debora (Lily James).

All of the actors are stellar. Some of the crews that Baby works with include Griff (Jon Bernthal, who knows how to play a tough guy better than most guys in Hollywood), Buddy (Jon Hamm), his girl Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Bats (Jamie Foxx). Along with Spacey and James, it is one heck of a lineup of thespians. In the end, however, the movie belongs to Elgort, who holds his own against all of them. Not for one second do you see the guy who fell in love with Shailene Woodley’s Hazel in The Fault in our Stars.

Parents, the R rating is for swearing and action/violence. There is no nudity or sex in the film (though a lot of making out between Buddy and Darling). Basically, High School and above, unless you have a very mature middle schooler (I would think you would be fine taking them to see it).

As of now, my only real flaw with the film is the last five minutes or so. I will leave it at that, so as not to give anything away. Still, the action in the movie kicks the crap out of any Michael Bay movie one can think of (I am still in stunned silence from the climax of the film). I have not even talked about the amazing soundtrack.

My only other hope is that the CEO of Uber does not show the movie to potential clients.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****