Darkest Hour tells the story of how Winston Churchill came to be British Prime Minister at the height of WWII. I found the story quite fascinating as it’s not one that I had ever heard. I don’t think that British politics and British history were really taught in Canadian high schools, so it was interesting to learn of Churchill’s path to the Prime Minister’s office.
Darkest Hour was up for several Oscars, winning for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling and Gary Oldman took home the Lead Actor award, the film was nominated for Best Picture, Cinematography, Costume Design and Production design. Oldman certainly delivered an excellent performance, while heavily made-up to look hauntingly like Churchill. That Makeup and Hairstyling award was very well earned, but sometimes I’m torn when someone wins an award for playing the part of a real person, especially a famous historical figure. When the audience is familiar with the person there is an expectation of what the performance should bring. We know what Churchill is supposed to look like, how he should walk and how he should talk. Is there much room for interpretation by the artist? We would cry foul if Churchill all of a sudden spoke with a French accent or only spoke in rhyme or something else completely and ridiculously “non-Churchill”. When playing a figure like that, does the artist just have to follow the template? Oldman’s Churchill was believable to me, and he brought great emotion to the role, and I suppose that’s what any award is recognizing in a way.
The rest of the cast was very good as well, though I didn’t really know the significance or the true roles played by some of the political figures. I don’t know if Lily James’ secretary character was real, a combination of several real people who surrounded Churchill, or completely fabricated for the film, but I felt she gave an excellent performance as well. Overall the film was good, and I enjoyed the story. It was obviously quite serious but it managed to mix in some humour, and at the end some fairly emotional and heartfelt scenes. The pace was a little slow, which is kind of to be expected with the dry subject matter it was covering, but the end result was worth the wait.
Bottom Line: Spoiler alert: WWII? We win.
In Baby Driver, writer/director Edgar Wright has combined music and action to create one of the most exciting and stylish heist films I’ve seen in a long, long time. It may have been a little heavier on style than it was on plot, but the mix made it incredibly entertaining.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best getaway driver criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey) has ever met, but now Baby wants out. The timing couldn’t be better, he’s paid off the debt he owes Doc, and he’s just met an attractive waitress named Debora (Lily James). But getting out of a life of crime is never as easy as one would think. Doc has another robbery planned, which could be the most dangerous yet, not just because of the target, but because of the crew: Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González) and Bats (Jamie Foxx). Buddy and Darling are a couple and Bats is ….. well it’s probably best to describe him as batty…. or bat-shit crazy. Baby is a great driver and when he’s behind the wheel he can escape any situation on the road, but once Bats discovers that Baby is trying to leave the crew on the night before their heist, he also discovers who Debora is (and where she works), then the real escape plan begins. Baby has to find a way to get out of the heist, get Debora and get out completely, all without anyone following him, and without getting hurt.
When you heard talk of Baby Driver you probably heard people talking about the soundtrack, and it was incredible. A fantastic mix of music that meshed organically and naturally with the action on screen. It would be a shame if the film is not nominated for a few of the more technical Oscars this year. I could see it getting nods for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and possibly even for Film Editing. The thing about Edgar Wright’s films that I love is the amount of detail that goes into the script, the planning and that ends up on the screen. During the opening credits, Baby is dancing along to the music (Harlem Shuffle) while on a coffee run and several of the lyrics appropriately show up on the screen, hidden in graffiti in the background at just the right time. As in several other of Wright’s films, key plot points of the film are subtly foreshadowed well ahead of time. Lines overheard on television end up being lines used by characters, and lines you think are throwaway lines end up coming true.
Solid acting was guaranteed with two Best Actor Oscar winners in the cast in Foxx and Spacey, but James and Elgort gave equally excellent performances as well. The stunt work was top notch too, especially the driving (obviously). I even managed to resist the urge to speed on my way home after seeing this in theatres. Usually after seeing a movie that features a lot of car chases, I want to drive just like the people I saw on screen. Heist movies are always fun, but Baby Driver managed to be more than just a simple summer popcorn flick. It balanced the action, music, drama and even humour perfectly, creating a film that will be enjoyed for many years to come.
Bottom Line: I can’t wait to pick this up on Blu-Ray. Wright usually puts a “trivia” track on the home video releases of his films so we can see exactly what he was thinking when a shot plays out, or we can see the Easter eggs he had hidden throughout the film. I like to think I pick up on a lot of them, but it will be nice to see how many I miss!
I’d never read Pride & Prejudice before, and never seen any of the various Pride & Prejudice films before either (probably because it was never assigned to me in high school), but for some reason I was interested in seeing PP&Z. It was probably due to the trailers with Lily James and her film sisters in corsets…I was quite entertained by everything about the film.
A plaque has descended upon England, but not a black plague this time, but a zombie plague. With London separated from the rest of the English countryside by a giant moat, those not living in the great town live in constant fear of attack. The Bennett family is one of those who live in such fear, and whose five daughters are all young and of a marrying age. Their mother is extremely anxious to marry them off lest they become penniless spinsters. The girls are shopped to suitors at balls and dinners, where deals are almost made to marry off Elizabeth, but she wishes to marry for love and not out of convenience. The Bennett girls are all highly trained in the fine arts: sewing, music, dance, and the martial arts too, which is helpful when there are zombies around to crash your dinner party.
Lots of action; ample amounts of romance and drama; lots of humour actually too. The fights were good, and varied enough that the action sequences didn’t grow boring. Often times in zombie films or television shows, it can easily become repetitive as zombies are just shot in the head time after time after time. Decent effects, and good acting; Lily James was excellent, and Matt Smith was fun to watch in something other than Doctor Who. After watching I checked out online what happened in the original Pride & Prejudice, and surprisingly, the Zombified version was quite faithful….with just extra zombie….stuff…. but it did stick to the basic Jane Austen storyline. The zombies weren’t overplayed or overused, and I’m sure that the whole thing was just a big commentary on the class structure of England. It all worked very well, but it did have the benefit of being based on an all time classic.
Bottom Line: I probably won’t put Pride & Prejudice on my “to read” list, but I may add Pride & Prejudice & Zombies…