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Non-Review Review: Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour is a powerhouse performance nested inside a fairly formulaic film.

In terms of plot, Darkest Hour is very much a familiar cinematic biography. Building off the template cemented by writer Peter Morgan on The Deal, The Queen, The Special Relationship and Rush, this is a film that explores its subject through the lens of a single event. The plot of Darkest Hour unfolds across May 1940, in the shadow the Second World War. It charts the life of Winston Churchill from the resignation of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to the evacuation of Dunkirk. It is tightly focused, and perhaps the better for that.

Winston, Loseton.

In many ways, Darkest Hour feels like a collection of pop culture standards. Churchill is such an iconic part of European history, and this month was so crucial, that audiences have almost reached saturation point with narratives documenting key moments in the life of the statesman. Darkest Hour cannot help but evoke shades of everything from The King’s Speech to The Crown to Dunkirk, all of which share some sense of the same time and place. Darkest Hour simply combines a lot of pop culture Churchill into what amounts to a “greatest hits” package.

With that in mind, it should be no surprise that Darkest Hour is elevated by the central performance from an almost unrecognisable Gary Oldman. If pop culture has synthesised Churchill’s history to a collection of “greatest hits”, then it is the delivery that truly matters. Oldman carries the film home.

Two-finger salute.

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Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Victory of the Daleks originally aired in 2010.

Would! you! care! for! some! TEA???!!!

– the Daleks

Ah, the Daleks. They tend to rise and fall. They get built up and then they fall back down. Like the show itself, they come and go in cycles. The Dalek Invasion of Earth has the psychotic pepperpots invade Earth, while The Chase reduces them to little more than comic foils. Destiny of the Daleks makes jokes about them being unable to climb stairs, while Remembrance of the Daleks then proves that they can. In 2005, both Dalek and The Parting of the Ways invested considerable effort in making them scary again. The show eroded that away over time, turning them into bitchy foils for the Cybermen in Doomsday for the Doctor to hover up and competing to create the most phallic monster ever in Evolution of the Daleks.

Steven Moffat took over the show in 2010, and that means that he also took over the Daleks. Tending to the Doctor also means tending to his worst enemies. And, to be fair, that’s a bit what Victory of the Daleks feels like. It feels like an obligation, a bit of business to get out of the way quickly (the first episode not penned by Moffat) so that the fun stuff can commence.

Exterminate the rainbow...

Exterminate the rainbow…

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The Final Cut (Review)

The third and final part of the House of Cards trilogy, The Final Cut exists to bring to a close the story of Francis Urquhart, the iconic and conniving fictional British Prime Minister. Portraying Urquhart during his twilight years, the series presents a man who has arguably faced and overcome all the challenges that the world has to offer. While The Final Cut lacks a clear focal point like House of Cards and To Play the King, it is a fitting conclusion to the epic saga, with a powerhouse central performance from Ian Richardson as the Machiavellian Tory Prime Minister.

Still in his Prime?

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Non-Review Review: The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech seems like the perfect storm of awards buzz. Released as we enter the year of a big royal wedding, featuring a lead actor who was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar last year, it seems to have an edge. In fact, my inner cynic went into the cinema listing off all the standard stereotypical Oscar bait criteria that the movie met: person overcoming adversity; unlikely friendship across social class; beautiful period costumes; hint of class; historical true story; tied in some way to the Second World War; a cast of respected and veteran character actors. I don’t think it would have been possible to plan a movie that so perfectly designed to win prestigious awards. I guess we should be thankful that it’s really very good.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown... but it does have great hair, though...

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Non-Review Review: Into The Storm

In my defense, I haven’t seen the original 2002 movie The Gathering Storm, to which this movie serves as a sequel – but I think the movie (as a historical piece) stands very well on its own two feet. Besides, aside from the producers (the brothers Scott, obviously attempting to follow Spielberg into the World War II market) and writer (Hugh Whitemore), the series has little in common with its illustrious predecessor. The director is new. The roles have been recast. If it weren’t for the linking theme of the word ‘Storm’ in the title and the fact that this movie picks up where the other left off (at least chronologically), there would be nothing to really tie it down. So, with the confession that I have not seen the original made-for-TV movie, what did I think of Into The Storm?

churchill

Cry Havok! And let slip the insurance-selling dogs of war!

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