Darkest Hour (Joe Wright – 2017) A-

In 1940, over the course of less than a month, the leadership of the newly assigned PM Winston Churchill is severely tested. Should Britain negotiate with the seemingly unstoppable Hitler and his superior military as one European country falls after the other? or should the British stand up to him and prevent the fall of Europe? Churchill was not trusted by either party that much. He was seen as a mumbling alcoholic who made a lot of bad decisions. He was not the first choice of anyone as PM. Yet, he was sharp, he was stubborn and above all a great orator. It’s fascinating to think that a man who basically was protrayed as an enemy of peace by his cabinet quiet possibly changed the course of history for the better. The film I’m sure takes some liberties with the details of how Churchill did that but it is very effective watching this excellent performance by Gary Oldman and the man who stood up to his government and even king in his belief that a “peace negotiation” with a monster like Hitler will be good for no one, except Hitler. This is an excellent companion piece to Nolan’s Dunkirk, a film I want to re-visit again.

The Many Saints of Newark (Alan Taylor – 2021) B-

This seemed like a bit of a wasted opportunity and a waste of an excellent cast. It plays a lot like a long pilot for a series or maybe series of movies. If that is the case, I’d love to see more. It focuses on Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) with the young impressionable Anthony Soprano idolizing him. Dickie is a character we heard about in the brilliant and ground-breaking series The Sopranos so here we get his story. The problem is it’s not interesting enough and the more solid characters I wanted to know more about, like Anthony’s mother played by Vera Farmiga, do not get enough script time to get fleshed out. It’s not a bad film and I really would like to see more of Michael Gandolfini as the young Tony. So, I do hope we get more “..A Sopranos Stories”.

Pig (Michael Sarnoski – 2021) A-

Just reading the description of this film it is as if someone wrote it just for me. An ex-chef, living in the Oregon wilderness with his truffle hunting pig. The pig gets kidnapped and he is on her trail looking for her in the Portland underbelly. He is played by Nick Cage! I’m already in. What I did not expect is how deliberate and thought-provoking this movie ended up being. It is not some violent John Wick type revenge film. Actually the chef, Robin, commits almost no violence. Whenever I expected him to, I would instead get more sharp interesting dialogue. It’s about art, things that matter in life, loss and what happens to our dreams. Loved this one.

Beckett (Ferdinando Cito Filomarino – 2021) C+

It’s alright. A couple vacationing in Greece get into a car accident. The guy, played by John David Washington, next finds himself the target of corrupt cops and assassins. It’s a film with an odd tone and the overall plot was not interesting enough to keep me engaged.

After Hours (Martin Scorsese – 1985) B+

It’s a strange, crazy, fun and funny film set in New York city, at night. The entire movie timeline is over one miserable night that Paul Hacket (Griffin Dunn) has to live through. It all starts off as he heads out to meet a cute girl (Rosanna Arquette) he met at the diner. Her roommate supposedly makes cool sculptures that he wants to buy or at least this is the subtext. As stuff gets more and more messy, he loses his cab fare, he runs into various zany characters, he becomes wanted for murder (or theft? maybe both?) and all he wants to do is get back home…but see the subway fare just went up to $1.05 after midnight and all he has is $0.95. The exchange with the subway attendant alone is work the price of admission.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Destin Daniel Cretton – 2021) B

Very good. Tony Leung is such an awesome screen presence and it’s so good to see him here after watching several Wong Kar-Wai films over the last few weeks. The martial arts fight scenes are fantastic and the actors are all likeable and have good chemistry. Of course it ends in a classic Marvel CGI battle but the journey is a fun one.

The Tenant (Roman Polanski – 1976) A-

It starts off innocently enough as Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski) asks to rent an apartment in Paris. It seems the woman who was living there jumped from the window for unknown reasons. He moves in and of course is curious about what happened to her. With a lot of inspiration from Hitchcock’s Rear Window and a good dose of Polanski’s own Rosemary’s Baby this film winds its character in a web of voyeurism and paranoia. Polanski is masterful in putting us squarely inside Trelovsky’s head, like him we are not sure what is going on all the time. Paranoia and discomfort seep in and it becomes tough to separate fantasy from reality. It’s an excellent moody piece of work.

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