FILMS: Star Wars: The Last Jedi & Darkest Hour

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- with my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

Perhaps the question I get asked the most is if I also review movies. I have done it- I was a film major in college at Syracuse- but I resisted here because I wanted to focus on theater. BUT- there have been so many remarkable films released this holiday season I reconsidered and decided it makes sense for me to tell you today about some of the critically acclaimed films I recently saw.

First up: the blockbuster- ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’

Co-written (w/George Lucas) & directed by Rian Johnson, this ‘Star Wars’ is a remarkable achievement and among the best in the 40-year film franchise’s history!

 Daisy Ridley image: Yahoo

Daisy Ridley solidifies her presence as a legitimate movie star as the main hero, Rey, and, though her Jedi training with the very reluctant Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker is given short shrift, the story arc covers so much and does almost all of it so well you won’t mind- and we get the point because we have seen the Jedi training before- in detail- with Luke and Yoda (who makes a brief cameo appearance here).

In fact, one of the brightest spots in this film is how well it brings so many story elements from the series full circle, invoking key struggles that go back to the first ‘Star Wars’ film, episode 4, from- yes- 1977.

Though Han Solo is missed, Oscar Isaac as Poe now fully takes over the role of the talented, rogue-ish fighter pilot we first met in ‘The Force Awakens.’ John Boyega is also back as ex-Imperial Storm Trooper Finn, as is Carrie Fisher as Leia, still leading the revolution in this, her final film.


And the villains! Adam Driver, as Kylo Ren, is now battling Rey just as Luke Skywalker battled Darth Vader- though there are some nice twists here. And Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke is an evil character reminiscent of Palpatine.

Plus there are many cameos- notably Laura Dern, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Carrie Fisher’s dog, Gary. Fans of C3PO may gripe- legitimately- that C3PO is reduced to just a small role as the nattering, fear mongering droid- even more so than usual. But R2D2 has some fun- and clever- heroic moments.

I give Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ 4-and-a-half stars out of 5! An epic family film to see on the big screen!

 Image: Patheos

One more film that is certainly better on the big screen is ‘Darkest Hour.’ It features an Oscar-worthy performance by Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill and begins as Churchill is becoming Prime Minister- just as Nazi Germany is storming through Europe and 300,000 Allied troops are trapped at Dunkirk with no apparent way to rescue them.

Anthony McCarten’s screenplay is excellent and director Joe Wright expertly conveys the tension and strain of the war on Winston Churchill while also humanizing him, as witnessed in the scenes with his wife, Clementine, winningly played by Kristin Scott Thomas.

Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel uses color that has a deep look of nuanced black & white, sublimely adding detail to the period setting.

 Image: Rotten Tomatoes

While Churchill is battling the Nazi’s, Stephen Dillane, convincingly conniving as Viscount Halifax, is waging political war with him- trying to get Churchill to agree to peace negotiations- while Churchill yells “You can’t negotiate… with a maniac!”

Having been in London and seen the Churchill Museum it was a thrill to see this film’s vision of how everyone worked there in the bunker- sequestered below ground.

I give ‘Darkest Hour’ 4-and-a-half stars out of 5; one of the best films of the year with a stunning, very human portrayal of Churchill by Gary Oldman- certain to be nominated for an Oscar.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.

This is Ed Katz talking movies for WICC 600!”