Film Review: “Darkest Hour”

Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James
Directed By: Joe Wright
Rated: R
Running Time: 125 minutes
Focus Features

Earlier in 2017, Christopher Nolan gripped audiences with a land, sea and air telling of the evacuation of “Dunkirk.” While I personally wasn’t wowed with Nolan’s WWII film, I appreciate his craft at conveying fear and desperation in the eyes of thousands of Allied soldiers looking to escape the stranglehold of the German army. For those, like me, who were looking for a little bit more in narrative substance, “Darkest Hour,” might scratch that itch.

“Darkest Hour” begins with Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) being named Prime Minister after multiple failures by Neville Chamberlain. Despite commanding respect from the House of Commons, his blunt speak and unorthodox approach quickly draws enemies behind the scenes. Lending their ears to the embattled Prime Minister is King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) and his personal secretary, Elizabeth Layton (James). While showing passion for defense his homeland, Churchill becomes increasingly difficult to work with as Hitler’s grasp on Western Europe grows bigger and tighter.

“Darkest Hour” tries it’s best to summarize a turbulent short span of time between Churchill’s ascent into one of the most difficult positions at the beginning to WWII to the formulation of Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk. While narratively confusing sometimes, white lettering telling us the specific date keeps things in line as Churchill digs in heels and sticks to his guns against confrontations with his enemies and his allies.

Thanks to history books, and “Dunkirk,” we do know how the story will play out, but the drama and emotional turmoil behind the decision making makes for a fascinating retelling. The war room, that Churchill manages to glide through at his brittle age, is always buzzing and the potential for a “negotiated peace” with Germany sheds light on the diplomatic crisis at hand as the body count for the good guys mounts.

Underneath heavy makeup, Oldman is able to capture Churchill’s warmth, impatience, generosity and unpredictability. At times his tongue slips and we hear a little bit of the actor’s voice come through, but overall his mannerisms, matching Churchill’s voice, keep him in a grounded and highly believable role. Oldman’s performance is just as commanding as Churchill’s presence in the face of insurmountable odds.

History junkies may like this straight-forward and poignant approach to political discourse during war. But that’s not to say that movie goers will find themselves entranced by Oldman’s performance and this unique history lesson. Not only is the Oscar hype real about Oldman’s performance, but it’s a refreshing reminder about the power of genuine men and the power of their words during a world at crisis.

Film Review: “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 58 mins

Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is a Triple-A rated bodyguard who is proud of the fact the he hasn’t lost a client since….BANG! Oops.

A film that only works in small doses, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is several films in one. First you have an action comedy full of dirty words and exploding heads. Next is a political thriller as the leader of Belarus (Gary Oldman) is put on trial, at the Hague in the Netherlands no less! Finally you have the “bro-mance,” featuring Bryce and hired killer Darius Kincaid (Jackson), a duo that yells and bickers with each other like an old married couple. Taken separately, you have a surprisingly entertaining (sometimes) film. Put it all together, and you have a mess.

When the film works it’s when Reynolds and Jackson act as you expect them too. Reynolds is all smarm, his character seemingly trying to be the smartest man in the room while Jackson finds new and entertaining ways to use the words “mother” and, well, you know.

Somehow Kincaid is the only witness that can put Oldman’s character away forever, though it’s never really understood how until the end of the film. Throw in Bryce’s old lover, who just happens to be an INTERPOL agent, and you can see how jumbled the film is. Thankfully, the chemistry (and improvisational skills) of Reynolds and Jackson keep the film moving. The action is frenetic, moving across Europe like a Zagat video gone wild, so much so that you appreciate it when Mr. Jackson gets to utter his favorite phrase. “You know you’ve totally ruined “mother fu**er) for me, Bryce tells Kincaid. Hardly. The words flow out of Kincaid like the paint off of an artist’s brush. If only the rest of the film were as much of a masterpiece.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Premiere of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”

Media Mikes has teamed with Lionsgate Films to give 50 readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” in Kansas City.

The screening will be held on Tuesday, August 15th at the B&B Shawnee 18 Theatre in Shawnee, Kansas and will begin at 7:00 p.m.

All you have to do is go here and download your passes. The first 50 readers to do so will receive a pass for two to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve contest and once the passes are exhausted the giveaway is over.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman, opens nationally on August 18, 2017

Film Review: “The Space Between Us”

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson and Gary Oldman
Directed by: Peter Chelsom
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hrs
STX Entertainment

Our Score: 1 out of 5 Stars

Have you ever seen a movie and afterward thought, “well, that’s two hours I’ll never get back?” Well, the makers of “The Space Between Us” owe me four hours. Because that’s how long it felt like it took this sci-fi-rom-com to tell me the story of the first person born on Mars and his quest to visit Earth.

Present day. A manned mission is being sent to Mars. Everyone is checked out medically and they’re off. Unfortunately it appears that the programs physician was a doctor, like Bill Cosby used to refer to himself as a doctor. It seems one of the lady astronauts is pregnant. As if she was married to “Bonanza’s” Ben Cartwright, she dies in childbirth, leaving the other astronauts, including the maternal Kendra (Carla Gugino) to raise him. Jump ahead 16 years and the young boy, named Gardner (Butterfield) is a thin, lanky, big-eyed boy longing to know what life on Earth is like. His existence has been kept secret by the mission’s benefactor, Nathaniel Sheppard (Oldman), who comes off here as less Richard Dyson and more Richard Nixon, not wanting the story of the astro-mom’s death to get out, fearing his funding will dry up. Gardner spends his days working around the space station, occasionally breaking the rules by going outside to drive like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. across the surface of the Red Planet. To appease Garner, they decide to operate on him, strengthening his bones with carbon rods and installing an item nears his heart because, in the weightless gravity of Mars, his body will not develop properly. His heart will become too big and the journey to Earth may kill him. Sadly, it doesn’t.

What a horrible film! While I applaud the premise the execution is horribly hit and miss. It’s as if the filmmakers already know that the audience has checked out of this film at the 10-minute mark. While on Mars, Gardner makes an Internet (Inter-world) chat partner who goes by the name Tulsa (Robertson). Tulsa is a foster child who lives with an alcoholic crop duster pilot, who apparently only lets her live with him for the monthly check. Gardner has told Tulsa that he lives in a Penthouse apartment in NYC and can’t go outside because of a medical condition. Tulsa just assumes Gardner is afraid to meet up. When he returns to Earth, Gardner easily escapes (apparently there are NO security guards at NASA, where people come and go, interrupting space missions and press conferences with ease) and meets up with Tulsa. They duo begin a journey to find Gardner’s father, a man he’s never met, going only on a photo of his mom and the man outside a beach house. Of course, like E.T., in the Earth’s gravity and atmosphere Gardner begins to get sick. Will he survive to meet his pop? After what you’ve just read, do you still care?

The film is full of horribly bad clichés and unbelievable plot points. A trip to the local warehouse store, where they purchase items using stolen cash and credit cards, reveals that Tulsa is a budding, and terrible, songwriter. Even though they are being hunted down she takes the time to sit at the electric piano display at COSTCO and serenade anyone within earshot. They then head to Vegas, where Tulsa takes advantage of the Strip to show Gardner “the world,” including Paris, Shanghai and Venice. Keeping one step ahead of the law, they decide to steal an unassuming car. Apparently the highways are full of bright red early 1970s Lincoln Continental convertibles, because not once do they attract the attention of law enforcement. When they reach the beach, Gardner comments that in the past few days he’s done things he always dreamed of, like touch water. What in the hell do they shower with on Mars (or any space station). And why did all of the establishing shots of the Mars compound show Gardner constantly walking over a footbridge, under which is a pool of water. Was the kid too damn lazy to just walk over to the edge and put his hand in? Believe me, the only thing this movie is missing is Chloe Grace Moretz, who has starred in my choices as the “Year’s Worse Film” twice in the past three years (“If I Stay” and “The 5th Wave”). Thankfully I think I’ve found my winner for 2017 so the next 11 months of movie-going should be enjoyable for me. Director Chelsom also gave us “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” which means I’m pretty sure what’s going to be playing on the double-bill at the drive-in in Hell.

I’ve always said that I’ll give any film at least one star because it’s in focus. This movie was in focus. Do yourself a favor and put as much space as possible between yourself and “The Space Between Us.”


MediaMikes has teamed with STX Entertainment to give (150) readers and their guests the chance to be among the first to see the new film “The Space Between Us.”

The film, starring Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson and Gary Oldman, will be shown at the B&B Overland Park 16 on Wednesday, November 16th and will begin at 7:00 p.m.

All you have to do is go to and enter the following code: bJYQC98176.
The first (150) to do this will receive a pass for two to the screening.

Good Luck!

The Space Between Us opens theatrically December 16th, view the trailer here.