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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of The Post & Proud Mary

Dearest Blog: Today it was off to Marquee Cinemas for The Post and Proud Mary.

It was supposed to be The Post and Paddington 2, but the schedule wants what the schedule wants.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't have seen in a trailer or remember from the news.

First up: The Post.

The press goes head-to-head with the President.

The Post is one of those Awards Season pictures that's so awardsey they don't have to put "Academy Award Winner" and "Academy Award Nominee" above the names of the stars in the trailer. You don't need any hints to get it: This is a contender.

The Post tells a timely tale of the importance of a free press, with a healthy (and no less timely) undercurrent of girl power. A quick check of Wikipedia will tell you how the story ends if you don't remember, but that doesn't make getting there any less tense. Steven Spielberg masterfully uses framing and camera angles to leave the audience feeling as the principals must have felt, as if someone were creeping up behind them the entire time. While the story is big, the movie manages to make it personal as well, as the timing of these events coincides with the Washington Post's owner fretting over taking her family's legacy public. A quick-witted and wordy script is the perfect showcase for a superb cast, headed by the incomparable Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. If The Post feels a bit preachy at times, it's only in service to its critical reminder of the ramifications of a press unable to hold the powerful to account. Without giving away THE ending to those who may not know it, I will say that the film's final stopping point sets it up as a literal prequel to All the President's Men, one of the finest films of all time, giving it even bigger shoes to fill.

The Post clocks in at 116 minutes and is rated PG13 for "language and brief war violence."

For all its pedigree, The Post feels a bit un-buzzy as awards season kicks into high gear. The blame for that likely can be laid squarely at the feet of a world that is exhausted by divisive and antagonistic politics. Trust me, dear reader(s), I'm right with anyone who just wants to tune out these days, but it's a shame if this extraordinary picture pays the price.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Post gets eight.

Fangirl points: Michael Stuhlbarg! Bruce Greenwood!

Next up: Proud Mary.

A hitwoman for a Boston organized crime family attempts to make amends for a past mistake.

A predictable but unrepentant action flick, Proud Mary has all the earmarks of those quick, cheap films TV stars make when they're on hiatus; it's basically a better-dressed and less-motorcycley Sons of Anarchy episode. Taraji P. Hensen, as glorious and gifted as any actress working today, elevates the material beyond what it deserves, but, ultimately, even she can only do so much to save something so unimaginative. The usually reliable Danny Glover is inexplicably awful, every line sounding like he's reading from a card he's only just seen for the first time. Sadly, Billy Brown remains clothed for the entire movie (spoiler alert!), and, with just a few minutes' screen time, the picture is a pitiful waste of the great Neal McDonough.

Proud Mary runs a quick 89 minutes and is rated R for violence.

Proud Mary is a by-the-numbers action flick that's redeemed mostly by the wattage of its star.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Proud Mary gets five.

Until next time...


During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.

Director: Joe Wright

Release Date: Nov 22, 2017

Cast: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane

Rated PG-13 for some thematic material

Runtime: 2 hr. 5 min.

Genres: Biography, Drama, History


Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is a perfectly solid historical drama that’s buoyed by an impressive turn by Gary Oldman.  Wright’s movie hits most of the basic points of interest as he covers roughly a month of Winston Churchill’s life as he ascends to the role of Prime Minster as Hilter’s forces close in on Britain.  As such, it makes for an interesting companion pieces to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.  While that film dealt the soldier’s point of view this film is far more concerned with the political landscape that Churchill was dealing with as he took office.  It’s catnip for history buffs even though everyone knows how it ends.  Still, it’s a fascinating situation to examine considering how badly the odds where stacked against the UK.  Wright does a solid job of providing a glossy accounting of darken close quarter rooms where major decisions were being made in the face of impending doom.  The film, though, wouldn’t work nearly as well if it wasn’t for a stellar turn by the film’s star Gary Oldman who disappears into make up and character.  This isn’t the first time Oldman has lost himself into characters behind make up, most memorably in Dracula and an underrated and nearly forgotten turn in the Silence of the Lamb sequel Hannibal.  This film is clearly Oldman’s showcase, so much so that some of sequences might as well have the words “For your Consideration” emblazoned along the bottom of the screen.  Thankfully Oldman doesn’t disappoint as he delivers one of the best performances of his career in a long while.  He’s had better roles in the past but this type of biopic seems ready made for award season. 


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...

Monday, January 1, 2018


Elisa is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab's classified secret -- a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist.

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Release Date: Dec 1, 2017
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer

Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language

Runtime: 2 hr. 3 min. 

Genres: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy


The Shape of Water is a lovely modern day fable brought to life by Guillermo del Toro.  It’s a fascinating and elegant film that’s got a hopeful sensibility running throughout its runtime.  Guillermo del Toro’s film is visually striking to look at and engaging throughout.  The story paints in broad strokes with most of the characters feeling more like types than actual people but the cast delivers strong enough performances to make it work.  Sally Hawkins is front and center throughout and she delivers a magnetic performance.  Hawkins displays an impressive ability to transmit emotions through looks and mannerisms which allows the audience to follow her characters emotional journey.  It helps that she and Doug Jones, who plays the creature, share some tangible screen chemistry, all displayed non verbally making it even more impressive.  The supporting cast is equally impressive with each leaving their signature on the film.  Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer make for a likeable pair of friends for Elisa even though both could have used a bit more depth.  Michael Stuhlbarg’s character is an interesting mixture of grey area where you don’t quite know where he stands until near the end of the film.  Michael Shannon makes for an impressive villain for the piece.  The character is a solid blend of all the negative aspects of white males in post WW2 American and as portrayed by Shannon he one of the most interesting characters in the piece.  Del toro doesn’t quite reach the heights he in did in Pan’s Labyrinth with The Shape of Water but he does deliver another vividly impressive live action fable.  

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