Darkest Hour (2017) Film Review

I don’t know a lot about Churchill – I know of his alcoholism, his depression (famously, his black dog) and the ‘We will fight on the beaches” speech. I found it fascinating in the Darkest Hour to learn about how Churchill became Prime Minister, at a time during the war when the Nazi forces were their strongest there was a real threat of losing much of the British forces. It’s a film about politics, about personalities battling against each other and the devastation of war.

This film reminded me a lot of Lincoln in that both show that politics has never been straightforward as coming up with a good idea and following through – it is about backroom deals and double-crossing and planning against each other, and it is truly a dirty world. I loved the world around Churchill – the upstairs/downstairs and breakfast served in bed and backing out of the room with royalty, though I am hoping that this world is long gone. Though… probably not. I also was very aware that this is a dramatization and it makes me wonder what was real and what wasn’t. How much of an influence was his wife, his secretary, the King of England?

Darkest Hour was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Gary Oldman) and for BAFTAs for Best Leading Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Make-up/Hair, Original Music, Best Film, Best Supporting Actress (Kristin Scott Thomas), Outstanding British Film of the Year, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Film Review

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Based on a John Le Carr novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy follows retired spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman) as he attempts to discover which top ranking of MI6 is a Soviet Spy.

It’s an amazing cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds, Kathy Burke and Benedict Cumberbatch just to mention a few. I just wish I’d seen it in the cinema. It is relatively slow-moving, with not a lot of action, and I found at home that my attention kept drifting and I didn’t really follow it all. None the less, it was clearly an extremely good film that should have kept my attention. I blame me on this one.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Oldman), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Bridget O’Connot and Peter Straughan) and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Film Review

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Like many, many cinemagoers, I was ridiculously excited about this film. Although, having said that, I haven’t re-watched Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, I didn’t participate in a movie marathon of these three films and I didn’t go to a midnight screening, or even a screening over the first weekend.  I guess I am not a truly dedicated, passionate, obsessed fan. But I was still ridiculously excited.

I don’t want to recount the plot at all. If you haven’t seen the first two, get them out and watch them, then go see it. If you don’t want to, then there may be some things you don’t understand. Deal with it. All I’ll say is that the film is set several years after the last film and Gotham is a safe city. A lot of the characters are back – Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), Alfred (Michael Caine), Fox (Morgan Freeman), Commissioner Gordan (Gary Oldman). And we’ve got some new ones – Bain (Tom Hardy), Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Selina/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), Miranda (Marion Cotillard) and the delightful surprise of seeing Ben Mendelsohn, albeit totally underused, as Daggart.

The film had much of the stuff that we’ve come to expect over the previous two films; some gruesome violence, authority figures not trusting each other and lots and lots of explosions. If it’s sounding boring or formulaic, it’s not. Yes, it is long – almost three hours, but time passes quickly in the film. Lives and the whole of Gotham city are transformed. And, in the true nature of cinema, everything rests on the final few seconds. Having said that, I picked several of the twists, which annoyed me. For me to pick up on them, there must have been too many hints. Either that, or I’m getting smarter.

There’s been a lot of talk about what the film symbolizes. Is it anti-The Occupy movement? Is it more about anti-capitalist terrorism? I’m not sure what Christopher Nolan intends from the film, how he intends it to be read. For me, it’s an awesome action film with a bit more depth than many, a fabulous cast and is well and truly worth the wait.

See it in the cinema. See it on a big screen with good sound. See it with a big audience. Just see it.

This review first appeared at www.melbournegeek.com on August 27, 2012

 

 

Batman Begins (2005) Film Review

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Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is travelling the world, attempting to find way to get past the murder of his parents that he witnessed as a small child. After training in some mountains with a mysterious group, he eschews their offer to join them and returns to Gotham, to his butler, Alfred (Michael Caine) in the hope of improving the lives of the residents. But there is a bad guy, the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) who is causing problems. Bruce meets Fox (Morgan Freeman) who is in research and development, and Batman Begins.

Having used The Dark Night as a teaching text, I tend to be overly focused on that film over either this or the final in the trilogy. Watching this again reminds me of just how good it is – characters are set up, a strong story is told and it is left on the edge of the next film. Wonderful.

Batman Begins was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Cinematography.

 

 

The Dark Knight (2008) Film Review

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Batman (Christian Bale) has done heaps to make Gotham a better place, and wants a quiet life with his love interest, Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Two things stand in his way; he needs a good man to be a public face of good in Gotham, and Rachel is seeing another man. Both of these problems are directly related to Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). Then along comes the Joker (Heath Ledger), appearing to “watch the world burn”, bringing his own chaos to Gotham.

I’ve made it no secret that I love a good superhero film, I love the excitement and chaos of a good chase, some explosions and fighting. The Dark Knight is the next step up – dark, sinister, with some truly horrible stuff happening. Clever, and no matter how many times I watch it, I have to look away when the Joker has the pencil. The opening bank raid is one of my favourite film opening sequences, not least because I get a moment of William Fechtner, and that’s always a good thing.

The Dark Knight won Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Heath Ledger) and Best Achievement in Sound Editing and was nominated for Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Make Up, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Achievement in Visual Effects.

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) Film Review

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A large amount of the world’s population has been wiped out by the virus created in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his fellow apes have created a society in the hills by the dam. But when humans arrive, ten years since they last had contact with the apes, both humans and apes feel threatened.

It is most certainly an extremely stunning film, with fabulous effects that worked extremely well in 3D. I’m not sure if it is just me, but I really love a good, big story with some awesome betrayal. Can the two species find a way to live together, or will the betrayal of each side mean the end? And while the story is satisfactorily ended for this chapter, it is way open for another film in a few more years. I hope. With lots of cool battle scenes.

One further note: I think there is nothing quite so cool as seeing Maurice the Orangutan riding a horse.

Lawless (2012) Film Review

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The Bondurant brothers are bootleggers working in rural Virginia, managing stills in the hills and running spirits into towns. Legend is that the brothers are indestructible, which seems likely during several of the particularly violent and gory scenes in this exceptionally violent and gory film. Things are going well for the Bondurant brothers, with young Jack (Shia LaBeouf) finally stepping up into the business. Then there is a new lawman in town – the ever-creepy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) and things getting rapidly worse.

I am currently addicted to Boardwalk Empire and have been enjoying the Ken Burns documentary on the prohibition that’s been playing on SBS. It was great to see the other side of the prohibition, especially tied in with aspects of the depression. But it wasn’t the plot that made the film for me. It was the characters. In many ways, Jack was the weak link of the characters. I didn’t want him to get cocky. He spent his life not living up to his brothers, and I just wanted him to do what he needed to and not be an idiot. But, without him being an idiot, it would have been a different story. It just seemed a bit clichéd to have one character’s arrogance bring down the whole story. The annoyingness of Jack was by far outweighed by the other marvelous characters, most notably for me, Charlie Rakes. Guy Pearce looks incredibly creepy in this role, with his shaved parting and his foppish suits, but it was the coldness behind his camp behaviour that made him the evil character that he was. In direct contrast was Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Forrest Bondurant. Straight talking, when he talked. A man with no airs, no graces and certainly no bullshit. Yet he was the criminal that the audience sided with and loved.

Lawless looks into a time in the world where people were struggling and the line between legal and moral was blurred.  It’s a great yarn. Enjoy it.