Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Movie review: Gary Oldman is bright beacon in ‘Darkest Hour’

“Darkest Hour” (PG-13)

There are very few times in life where you can see an actor completely disappear into a role, and that’s exactly what happens with Gary Oldman becoming British Minister Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.” Yes, ultimately it’s a performance, but it’s so completely engrossing that you feel that you are in the film with him, watching the extraordinary events unfold.

Directed by Joe Wright, “Darkest Hour” takes us behind the scenes of a crucial time at the beginning of Churchill’s first run as prime minister, a post he’s escalated to after Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) loses the confidence of Parliament after Adolf Hitler marches his forces across Western Europe. Facing opposition from both sides of the political aisle and King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) — as well as underhanded pressure from Chamberlain and Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane) to negotiate what it sure to become a doomed peace treaty with Hitler — Churchill must decide what is right for the country and if fighting for their freedom is the best resolve.

Despite all that “Darkest Hour” has going for it — the film benefits even more from the blockbuster success of director Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” over the summer. The miracle of Dunkirk is a make or break moment for Churchill, as he calls for civilian boats to cross the English Channel to rescue 300,000 British troops that are trapped on the Beaches of Dunkirk, France.

Seeing “Dunkirk” helps you understand the stakes of saving the soldiers at Dunkirk, making “Darkest Hour” all the more riveting. All told, “Darkest Hour” is easily one of the best films of the year, punctuated by the hands-down best performance of the year by Oldman.

Lammometer: 10 out of 10

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Tim Burton Book 2
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Movie Review: ‘Justice League’ does justice to DC with fun, lighter tone

Justice League (PG-13)

DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers, “Justice League,” is finally here, and the long- awaited big screen union of some of DC’s biggest superheroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg — was worth the wait. It’s not perfect, but a definite improvement over 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Justice League picks up not long after the tragic ending of Batman v Superman in 2016 where (spoiler!) Superman dies in an explosive showdown with the monstrous Doomsday. A new, threat is looming this time, though with the villainous Steppenwolf, who is looking to gather three mother boxes, which contain an apocalyptic power to destroy the earth. And while the newly formed Justice League proves to be a worthy opponent for Steppenwolf, the group really needs to the power of Superman to defeat him, that is, if Superman (Henry Cavill) can somehow rise from the dead.

Like other DC films, Justice League has a grittier feel than its Marvel movie counterparts, yet, this time around the tone is far lighter, more fun and has many more laughs than “Ba

tman v Superman” or its predecessor, “Man of Steel.”

And while the film takes a good hour for the group to come together, the Justice League, when fully formed is great, from Ben Affleck as Batman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg, as well as Gal Gadot and Ezra Miller as the movie’s biggest standouts as Wonder Woman and The Flash, respectively. The visual effects are spectacular as expected, but hover dangerously close to overwhelming the story.

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Tim Burton Book 2
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Movie review: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ is first-class ride

VIDEO: See Tim’s review of “Murder on the Orient Express” with Zachary Lashway on KARE-TV (NBC)

“Murder on the Orient Express” (PG-13)

Don’t hesitate to climb aboard “Murder on the Orient Express,” filmmaker Kenneth Branagh’s lavishly produced and expertly directed adaptation of legendary author Agatha Christie’s classic novel. Loaded with a brilliant ensemble cast, lush set pieces, inventive cinematography and gorgeous settings, “Murder on the Orient Express” is a welcome throwback to the classic whodunnit murder mysteries of yesteryear, told passionately though the Branagh’s lens.

Branagh does double duty by playing famed literary detective Hercule Poirot, one of world’s best investigators who thinks he’s in for a three

-day break for on a train trip across 1930s Europe when the locomotive is waylaid on a mountainside by an avalanche. The train is occupied by people of all different backgrounds, including Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), a notorious mobster whose “occupation” as art dealer has made him a lot of enemies.

On the first night aboard the stranded train, Ratchett is violently murdered, and with no one else in the proximity of the crime scene for miles, Poirot quickly concludes that one of 13 passengers is responsible for Ratchett’s death. Through his meticulous investigation, Poirot tries to whittle down a suspect, leading to a stunning conclusion that people new to the story simply won’t see coming.

While many people are fond of Christie’s original novel or the 1974 adaptation directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Albert Finney as Poirot, perhaps the film fans who will enjoy “Murder on the Express” the most are the people who come into the film cold. Yes, there are slight character changes in the film, but there is virtually no wiggle room for the film’s meticulously-constructed narrative.

That’s a big plus for newbies, yet leaves potential room for disappointment for fans who already know how the story ends . Luckily, the film’s sprawling, fascinating narrative, stunning vistas and first-class performances by the likes of Branagh, Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Olivia Colman, Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad and Willem Dafoe make the ride well-worthwhile.

Lammometer: 8 (out of 10)

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AUDIO: Hear Tim review “Murder on the Orient Express” with Tom Barnard on “The KQ Morning Show” (segments begins 9 minutes in).

Tim Burton Book 2
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Movie review: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is (Hulk) smashing great time

VIDEO: See Tim’s review of the film with Adrienne Broaddus on KARE-TV (NBC Minneapolis).

Chris Hemsworth is back and funnier than ever as the God of Thunder in “Thor: Ragnarok,” an action comedy-style adventure that diverts from the path established by the first two “Thor” movies and as a result, thrives through the kaleidoscopic vision of director Taika Waititi.

The film doesn’t waste any time raising the stakes for Thor, who learns while in the capture of the fiery demon Surtur (voice of Clancy Brown) that his home planet of Asgard is facing Ragnarok – the end of days – which he thinks he puts a temporary stop to.

That all changes, though, when his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) warns Thor and his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) that Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) has broken out of her imprisoned existence and is coming to Asgard to wreak havoc. In their first attempt to stop her, both Thor and Loki are cast off to the junk planet of Sakaar, where its savvy ruler Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) features Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in gladiator-style battles to entertain the planet’s inhabitants.

But with his powers restricted after being captured by the bounty hunter, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor must first find a way to convince Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to revert to Bruce Banner to escape from Grandmaster’s clutches to get back to Asgard to face off against Hela, whose powers are growing stronger by the minute.

While the first two Thor films weren’t overly serious, “Thor: Ragnarok” establishes almost from its opening frames that it will be marching to the beat of a different – and very funny – drummer. Yes, serious things do happen in the film, but through Waititi’s lighthearted approach, we’re treated to a fast-moving, neon-infused adventure romp that’s loaded with action, colorful costumes and sets, and hilarious dialogue created largely through the improv skills of the gifted ensemble cast.

All told, Waititi injects a burst of energy that’s so welcome in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And while the previous films in the MCU were hardly lacking, it’s exciting to see a filmmaker take risks and break free from the studio’s other offerings and establish its own identity. While some sequels face the danger of falling into a trap and becoming formulaic with each passing film, that’s never the case with “Thor: Ragnarok.” It’s a (Hulk) smashing great time.

Lammometer: 9 (out of 10)

AUDIO: Hear Tim’s review of “Thor: Ragnarok” with Tom Barnard on “The KQ Morning Show.”

Copyright 2017 DirectConversations.com

Tim Burton Book 2
Click book cover for info on how to buy!