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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Darkest Hour & Molly’s Game

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for a pair of true tales: Darkest Hour and Molly's Game.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers or, you know, a history book (or maybe a tabloid).
First up: Starting off the New Year right with my Gary in Darkest Hour.
Winston Churchill does not negotiate with Nazis.
Dear reader(s): By now you will have heard that Gary Oldman's transformation into Winston Churchill is nothing short of remarkable. I'm here to tell you, with all the impartiality a person who makes a homemade Gary Oldman calendar every year can muster, that you should believe the hype. Much has been made of the countless hours Gary spent in makeup and prosthetics in order to take on the portly prime minister's appearance--and it is well and truly amazing--but the quality of this performance is not about physical transformation; it's about how well he tends to the details of BEING Churchill: mannerisms, speech patterns, expressions. The look in his eyes at times is just extraordinary. We movie fans are so used to Gary disappearing into his roles that we may take it for granted, but this is a whole other level, a masterful performance for the ages. Darkest Hour's supporting cast is also stellar, with Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, and the incomparable Ben Mendelsohn all holding their own opposite Oldman's tour de force turn.
Darkest Hour relates an oft-told story with an outcome well known to everyone, but it isn't handicapped by its familiarity; instead it feels like quite the nail-biter right down to the finish. Despite the somber subject matter, the picture steers well clear of misery and self pity; it is hopeful and actually quite funny at times, that rare awards-worthy bit of filmmaking that seems to care as much about entertaining as it does about accolades.
Darkest Hour clocks in at 125 minutes and is rated PG13 for "some thematic material."
Darkest Hour is a solid historical epic with an Oscar-caliber lead and a sadly-timely message about the dangers of placating tyrants. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Darkest Hour gets nine.
Fangirl points: My Gary (duh)! Ben Mendelsohn! Joe Armstrong!!
Next on the docket: Molly's Game.
The rise and fall of Molly Bloom, a one-time Olympic contender who made and lost a fortune running an exclusive high-stakes poker game.
It won't be news to anyone who's seen so much as a single trailer that Molly's Game rises and falls on Jessica Chastain's outstanding turn in the lead. Chastain seems born to acclaimed writer (and first-time director) Aaron Sorkin's rapid-fire style, and she gets to glam it up as the high-class hostess to elite celebrities, athletes, and world leaders. You will not be able to take your eyes off of her. While the supporting cast is solid, there's not much room for anyone but Chastain as Bloom narrates her own story, with others popping in and out merely as grout to her tile. No disrespect to Chastain, who is entirely Oscar worthy, but I'd be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to remind filmmakers that more Idris Elba is always better. (Please make a note of it.) Sorkin's direction weaves seamlessly between Bloom's present-day legal battles and her relating of the events leading to said battles. As is Sorkin's trademark, the dialogue is superb, even if the poker language might as well have been some alien tongue for all I understood it. Daniel Pemberton continues his win streak with another striking score. The film slows down just enough that a small trim might have made a more efficient whole, but that's a petty quibble with what is ultimately a couple great hours of cinema.
Molly's Game runs 140 minutes and is rated R for "language, drug content, and some violence."
Molly's Game is a fascinating story and a worthy showcase for one of the finest actresses of her generation. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Molly's Game gets eight.
Fangirl points: Keep those eyes peeled for for about two seconds of Jose Bautista in newsreel footage at the start of the film. 
An ice rink PA is playing George Harrison's son singing my favorite George Harrison song. Chris O'Dowd! Justin Kirk! Brian d'Arcy James!
Until next time...

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