Sunday, November 26, 2017

Darkest Hour

After his missteps with Pan and Anna Karenina, one of my favorite directors, Joe Wright is back in form with the historical drama Darkest Hour.
It’s the story of Winston Churchill’s rise to power as Prime Minister of England during the early days of World War II.   Gary Oldman superbly portrays Churchill and is almost sure to nab an Academy Award nomination for his work.

Lily James as his aide and Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill’s wife back Oldman up, admirably. 

Writer Anthony McCarten’s script brings out all the drama of the uphill battle Churchill faced against those who wanted to appease or surrender to Hitler.

Darkest Hour is an excellently conceived and produced testament to a story every person born after World War II should know.  I give it a 4.3 out of 5.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Writer/Director Dan Gilroy’s Roman J. Israel, Esq. is one of those “Why?” films, as in, “Why would anyone in their right mind want to make this film?”
It’s the story of a savant schlub partner in a small law firm, who, because of his noted partner’s heart attack, is forced to come into the light, makes the mistake of using privileged information to collect a reward for turning in a killer, has a few weeks of the high life and then is killed for his ultimate reward.

I guess Denzel Washington, who is listed as a producer, wanted to play against type, but this type is so boring and uninteresting that it’s a blessing he gets shot and we can leave the theater.

It’s not that the cast isn’t fine.  Carmen Ejogo, Amanda Warren and Colin Farrell do their best, but I can only give Roman J. Israel, Esq. a 2.2 out of 5.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Writer/Director Margaret Betts’ Novitiate is a poignant tale of an Order of nuns in 1964 pre and post the dictates of the Vatican II Council, which liberalized some of the operations of the Catholic Church, including the nunnery Orders.
Melissa Leo supersedes her usual excellent performances as the fundamentalist Mother Superior of the Order of Roses, who stands against any changes and runs the Order with a tyranical hand.

The film succeeds primarily because of the superior cast of relative unknowns, including Diana Agron, Rebecca Dayan, Julianne Nicholson and the three actresses who play the principal role of Sister Catherine, Margaret Qualley at age 17-19, Sasha Mason at age 12 and Eliza Stella Mason at age 7.

Betts’ script provides a clear understanding of the fervor and shocks the young novitiates had to undergo, as well as the shock of change for the older nuns.

I give Novitiate a 3.9 out of 5.