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Review: ‘The Darkest Hour’ Is Gary Oldman’s Brightest Performance

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the darkest hour.

You do have to look twice at Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour to believe that is Gary Oldman. Director Joe Wright gives us plenty of time to examine Oldman’s performance, drawing the camera so close to his face we can see the glint in his eyes. Though the film doesn’t feature anything else of such stellar qualities, it doesn’t matter. This is Oldman’s movie, and he owns this role in a manner that no other actor could hope to nail with such palpability.

the darkest hour gary oldmanThe film begins when Churchill is considered for the role of the Prime Minister and ends with his most moving speech before parliament. His cantankerous and electric nature is present in the very first scene where his new secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) enters his bedroom. He greets her with a lit cigar and an immediate dictation, occasionally broken up by a phone call. The correspondence is not double-spaced, and he explodes in anger, only to calmly coax his cat out from under the bed. He’s a strange fellow that his own political party views as an odd chap and King George (Ben Mendelsohn) views as a scary fellow. Upon being inducted as Prime Minister, their conversation is brilliantly awkward with talk of scheduling and naps.

One member of Churchill’s political party refers to him in the halls as a man of too many bad ideas and a handful of good ones. It’s those good ideas that the United Kingdom desperately needs when facing the threat of Adolf Hitler. The clock is ticking for as World War II has just begun and requires the most critical of decisions. Churchill seems confident in his decisions but, then again, he always seems to have a plan. So many ideas burst from his rhythmic mouth that he requires Elizabeth to follow him into his car and outside the bathroom, continually stating orders and speeches that must be heard.

As the casualties begin to mount higher, Churchill has to make the tough call of continuing to fight Germany or enter into peace negotiations with Hitler. It’s a decision that continues to weigh heavily on his shoulders reducing him down to mumblings and late nights of drinks. A lesser man would have caved, but Churchill’s spokes only ground harder during this period whereas others would have bent and broken under pressure. Only a man so lively and active could lead a nation into war with vigor for victory.

I don’t know if Joe Wright was aware of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk when making this film, but he makes the smart choice in not focussing much footage on Operation Dynamo. If you’d like to see all the horrific action that went down during that rescue, Nolan’s film fills in this gap. In that same sense, Wright’s movie gives us a fuller picture by shifting focus to the political tensions going on back in England.

There are many meetings with figures in Churchill’s life; this includes the sympathetic strategies of King George, passionate empathy of Churchill’s wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), battles with the disagreeing Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), and personal banter with Elizabeth Layton. There are a few shots of the war, including the boats that headed to Dunkirk and the German bombers that decimated English troops. We don’t get much of these scenes and rightly so. It’s more inspiring and intriguing to watch Churchill seek the opinions of the people on the London Underground than watch as another bomb goes off or a soldier shot.

The film is still fantastically entertaining as a whole, barring Oldman’s domination of the screen. The cinematography feels grand and exciting, filming the commons room as a towering enclosure of great importance. The scenes of Churchill staring perceptively out of windows from cars and planes are mesmerizing, especially for one shot that transitions from a bombed land to a close-up of a decaying face. There’s a fast and invigorating pace to this history lesson, the days ticking for Churchill’s first month in office that was paramount to the war effort. When he meets with the public, he’s responsive and talkative, welcoming the astonishment of onlookers when he tries to navigate public transit. When in talks with his advisors, he booms with fury about the correct course to take with hardly anyone behind him.

This isn’t so much a puff piece on the figure as it is a humanizing one, the camera drawing close for those bitter moments of doubt, as in the momentary freeze he has before addressing the country over the radio. It’s one of the year’s best film for taking an exciting and inspiring take on history’s most significant political players, treating him as more than a textbook hero, as a man of great fear and emotions that are buried and embedded in his work. King George at one point asks over lunch how a man such as Churchill could effortlessly drink so much alcohol in a day without being drunk. “Practice,” he states.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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