Wednesday, December 27, 2017



Film Review by FIORE

It is not uncommon for two films with similar themes to square off against one another at the box office.  We’ve had competing Snow White movies, two movies about asteroids racing towards Earth; two nature rebellion disaster movies, and even several decades ago, two competing James Bond films.  This is happening again this year with the release of DUNKIRK and now, DARKEST HOUR.  While both films detail the same time period, and the same incident in history, one is presented from the military perspective, while the other from the political.

DARKEST HOUR concerns a limited vignette in the political career of Winston Churchill.  With Adolph Hitler’s Nazi army sweeping, seemingly unopposed across Europe, the British army is cornered on the sea cities of Calais and Dunkirk.  While many in the British parliament sense impending doom and want to secure a negotiated peace with Hitler, Churchill wants to fight to the end, preserving England’s sovereignty and freedom.

Gary Oldman offers a fantastic portrayal of Churchill.  He appears delighted in the role and his ecstasy permeates his performance.  Starring with Oldman are Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristen Scott Thomas ad Lily James.

Dario Marianelli provides a rousing score.  I could easily listen to the soundtrack again, it is that good.  Kazuhiro Tsuji is responsible for the prosthetics that turn the gaunt Oldman into the rotund Churchill.  Ivana Primorac completes the look with hairstyling and make up.

One common, yet disturbing element in modern biopics is the writer’s penchant for turning heroes, whether they are warriors, commoners or superheroes, into average joes.  Anthony McCarten does this with DARKEST HOUR, stripping Churchill of his legendary status as statesman and accenting his foibles and short-comings.  While this appeases the we-are-all-equal mob, it grinds those who believe there are natural born leaders.

Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK portrayed the battle and turning point in WWII from the military perspective.  DARKEST HOUR tells the tale from the politician’s viewpoint.  These perspectives are both valid and intriguing, as they dominate news headlines today; between those who are willing to capitulate for peace, and those who want to restore America to its former glory.

DARKEST HOUR and DUNKIRK.  Two films with similar themes.  Both are enjoyable to watch; however, if I must watch one again, I’ll pick DUNKIRK.

Friday, December 22, 2017



Film Review by FIORE

At times, a cameo role can upstage the main stars of a film.  Kevin Costner does this in MOLLY’S GAME.  He’s only on the screen for mere moments at the beginning and end of the movie, but those moments, especially the scene on the park bench in Central Park, facilitate this film to finer finesse. 

Molly Bloom was an Olympic Free Style Skiing hopeful, when an accident ends her aspects of athletic competition.  Attempting to keep pace with her successful brothers, and under the reproachful eye of her father, Bloom transforms her athletic skills into entrepreneurial skills for poker.  She runs successful games in both of the two-letter cities, until the FBI thwarts her operation.  MOLLY’S GAME reveals her rise to the high-stakes underworld, and eventual dismissal.

Molly is played by Jessica Chastain.  This role is overdue for Jessica.  A stylish, buxom, Rubenesque actress, her more recent roles have downplayed her sexual allure.  Here, she can style and profile with some of the world’s wealthiest personas and do so with poise. 

Idris Elba plays her attorney, but it is Kevin Costner as Molly’s father who steals the show.  Through his gravitas, MOLLY’S GAME elevates to an extra echelon. 

Like too many movies today, MOLLY’S GAME is too long.  Interest begins to wane at about the one hour, forty-minute mark; meaning a solid twenty minutes could be eliminated from the film. Again, this is most likely due to an overabundance of editors.  Three are used, and that is two too many.

All of the characters in MOLLY’S GAME, with the exception of Costner’s character, come off a bit too polished.  This is understandable, and is a general penchant of biodramas.  No one wants the unseemly portions of their lives exposed, so most of the rough edges are smoothed considerably.

These foibles aside, MOLLY’S GAME is enjoyable.  It’s pleasant seeing Jessica in a role more befitting her physical attributes.  It’s also energizing to see a seasoned veteran like Costner pull the thespian rug out from the rest of the cast. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017



Film Review by FIORE

How do you create a film about a subject no one cares about, and still make it worthwhile?  Those in the Millennial and X Generations, who all believe the world began with their birth, care nothing about the government scandals of the 1960’s.  Indeed, government scandals of today, such as sexual harassment charges, collusion with terrorists, covering up a murder spree in Benghazi, selling nuclear material to Russia, make the scandals of the past seem mundane.  So, to answer the question posed, you can make a film dealing with a topic no one cares about worthwhile, by utilizing the best cast and crew possible.  This is what Steven Spielberg does with THE POST.

While THE POST boasts box office headliners Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the true star of the film is Michael Kahn.  Kahn is one of the best, if not the best cutter in Tinseltown.  He takes THE POST and entwines it like a macabre spiderweb.  The intricacies of his editing are superior to the purloining of the Pentagon Papers.  Kahn’s teammates in this game are John Williams as scorer, Ann Roth as costume designer and Janusz Kaminski as cinematographer.  Like I said, use the best.

Make no mistake why THE POST was made and released at this time.  The media, by and large, have been revealed as advocates for progressive ideologies, rather than reporters of news.  Newspaper sales are in decline, and the very existence of the medium is currently in peril.  THE POST attempts to restore lost magnificence, not only to dinosaur publications, but also to attempt to resurrect the crucified perception of journalists.

For those illiterate of history, Daniel Ellsberg, played by Matthew Rhys, pilfered top secret government papers in an attempt to start a revolution against the Vietnam War.  The papers detailed massive corruption spanning four presidencies, but most contained in the John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson years.  Those who served in the war know it was a proverbial golden goose for Johnson, who profited millions off the war effort.  Ellsberg leaks the papers to the New York Times, and when the Nixon Administration seeks an injunction against their publishing, the Washington Post runs with the ball.

At the time, the Post was considered a local paper, and was in dire financial straits.  Owner Katharine Graham (Streep) is a socialite who arranges parties and decorates rooms and wants no part of the newspaper business; yet she is forced into it by the untimely death of her husband.  She relies heavily on her editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), but does not share his enthusiasm for pushing the envelope, nor his deep-seated hatred of President Nixon.  She despises even more her chief financial operator who talks to her with distain.  She sides with Bradlee, to spite the banker, and for this, is heralded in THE POST as a champion of women.  There is even a ludicrous scene with Streep leaving the courtroom and throngs of groveling women awing her as slaves did Lincoln.  No such scene happened in reality.

The Pentagon Papers were an embarrassment to Democrats and liberals.  It is not too surprising therefore, that before THE POST reaches its mid-point, the villain shifts from Kennedy-Johnson to Nixon.  It is blatant anti-Republican propaganda and writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer should not have been so overt in their bias.

With so much going against it, lack of interest and historical distortion, what makes THE POST worth watching?  Again, the film though problematic, is assembled beautifully.  If you watch it as fiction, and not historical, it is quite enjoyable.