Despite the new World War II drama Darkest Hour now playing in theaters nationwide, “Who was Winston Churchill?” still sounds like a question you’re likely to find on one of those ‘the dumbing down of America has happened’ videos. While Churchill may not have been American, himself, his influence and importance in the events of the mid-20th Century cannot be overstated. Winston Churchill was elected Britain’s Prime Minister in 1940, a position he held throughout the remainder of World War II and again from 1951 to 1955. Before his career in politics he had worked as a writer and served as a member of the British Army. His election in 1940 came at a time when Britain’s, and indeed the future of the whole of Western Europe was uncertain. Hitler had been elected Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and, by the time of Churchill’s election, was already marching across France, pushing British forces to the shores of the English Channel, where the famous evacuation at Dunkirk took place (if you haven’t seen Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, I highly recommend it!).
With the United States still hesitant to enter the war effort in either Europe or the Pacific, the newly appointed Prime Minister was faced with the choice of either regrouping and rallying national support to continue the war effort against Nazi Germany, or agreeing to sign a peace accord with Hitler and the Axis Powers. As the United Kingdom stood at the brink of invasion, it was up to Churchill to persuade Parliament, King George VI, and the people of Britain that the war could be won and that it was worth fighting, an extremely difficult prospect considering the ever-growing influence of Nazi Germany and the reluctance of the United States to enter the war. Continue reading →
Today (May 26th) marks the 50th anniversary celebration of The Beatle’s revolutionary album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The LP was the first released by the band following their retirement from touring after their final performance at Candlestick Park in 1966. Although The Beatles had already begun a steady transition from being a more traditional pop-rock group with albums like Rubber Soul and Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s has been hailed as their ultimate creative masterpiece, followed closely perhaps by 1969’s Abbey Road. Released at the beginning of the Summer of Love, it set a new precedent for what a rock and roll record could be. The concept behind the album began following the exhaustion the group experienced after the whirlwind of Beatlemania. Paul McCartney came to Lennon, Starr, and Harrison with an idea that they would record an all new album under an alternative persona, which would free them from the weight of being the Beatles and usher in a fresh wave of musical creativity. Sgt. Pepper’s not only ushered in a new era for the Beatles; it also marked the beginning of the psychedelic rock movement that would see new groups like The Doors, Pink Floyd, and Jefferson Airplane begin to climb the pop music charts. Now, 50 years later, Sgt. Pepper’s is known not only for its conception and importance to 60s rock (and music in general), but also for the history of its production. Continue reading →
Earlier this week, Sir Roger Moore, the third actor to portray Ian Fleming’s British Secret Service Agent, James Bond, passed away at the age of 89. Moore died after a brief battle with cancer at his home in Switzerland, according to his family members. The actor first achieved fame with lead television roles in series like Maverick and The Saint in the 1950s and 60s. His first outing as James Bond came with 1973’s Live and Let Die, the second Bond novel by author Ian Fleming. Moore’s appointment to the role came after Sean Connery returned for one additional film (Diamonds Are Forever) following actor George Lazenby’s dismissal from the the part. He would then go on to star as Bond in an additional six films throughout the remainder of the 1970s and up until 1985’s A View To A Kill. Continue reading →
For those die hard fans of the Star Wars film series, May 4th is always a special occasion. It was on May 25th, 1977 that A New Hope, the first ever Star Wars film from writer/director George Lucas made its theatrical debut. The event marked the beginning of a new phenomenon in modern cinema, and changed the way movies were made and even thought of from then on. Drawing from inspiration from early space adventure serials, George Lucas envisioned a modern space epic using classic themes and archetypes that would forever change the movie-going experience. His company, Industrial Lights and Magic, which would go on to create Pixar Animation in the 1990s, created new methods for special effects that gave movie-goers an experience never before seen on film. To celebrate this special fan day, here is the latest trailer for the next installation in the film series, The Last Jedi, which will feature original actors Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher as Luke and Leia Skywalker, along with new vets Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Adam Driver, and Domhnall Gleeson. Enjoy, and May the Fourth Be With You!
*Update – this article originally stated that A New Hope was released on May 4th, 1977, hence part of the reasoning behind “May-the-Fourth Day.” A New Hope actually hit theaters on May 25th of that year, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend. My apologies for the inaccuracy!
A new documentary centered around the youngest actor to portray British agent James Bond 007 (and for only one film) is coming to Hulu this May 20th. George Lazenby, a car salesman from Australia, famously conned his way into the role by going to meet with producer Albert R. Broccoli, securing an audition by claiming he had acting experience in his native Australia, which wasn’t true. He was, however, able to pull off an audition that was good enough to convince fellow producer Harry Saltzman of his worthiness for the part, and thus On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) became the first Bond film without original actor Sean Connery appearing in the title role. Although audiences and critics had mixed reviews upon its release, OHMSS has, over the years, became one of the more favored entries in the Bond franchise. Incidentally, Lazenby is also the only actor to have received major recognition for his portrayal of the character, earning a Golden Globe nomination in 1970 for Most Promising Newcomer/Best New Star. Continue reading →
There are few interesting indie releases opening in local theaters this weekend, alongside Jordan Peele’s directorial horror debut Get Out. The first is a war-drama titled Bitter Harvest, starring Max Irons (The Host, Woman in Gold) and Samantha Barks (Les Miserables, The Christmas Candle) as lovers facing the oncoming Ukraine Genocide of 1932-1933 under Joseph Stalin. The film comes from director George Mendeluk and follows a young artists (Irons) as he works to save his love, Natalka (Barks), from being rounded up and executed as part of the death-by-starvation camps that would be made all the more famous during Hitler’s time in Nazi Germany during World War II. The script comes from writer Richard Bachynsky Hoover and co-stars Terence Stamp (Superman, Young Guns) and Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile). Continue reading →
Martin Scorsese agreed to serve as producer for an official Grateful Dead documentary back in October 2014. The Dead’s 50th anniversary was coming up the following year, and filmmakers wanted to have the project ready for the celebration. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and the landmark event was ultimately celebrated with a massive 3-day concert over the 4th of July weekend in Chicago’s Soldier Field. Original members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Phil Lesh reunited on-stage for the event, which proved a huge success, despite the absence of Jerry Garcia, who died in 1995. Now, however, the 6-part documentary, appropriately titled Long Strange Trip from director Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story, Happy Valley), is set to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival before being released on Amazon Prime this May. Continue reading →
Happy Halloween! October is traditionally known for the fall season and for hosting Halloween on the last day of the month. Likewise film distributors tend to look at October as a good time to release horror and slasher films for Halloween on fight-seeking audiences across the country, and around the world. October, however, has a long history of major motion picture releases that is not strictly limited to the horror genre. Read on to see our list of impressive October releases, and enjoy your Halloween Weekend! Continue reading →
Today in movie history, revered editor and sound engineer Walter Murch was born in New York City in 1943. Murch first gained momentum in the film industry working with Oscar-winner Francis Ford Coppola on his film The Rain People (1969) before going on to work with George Lucas on THX1138 (1971) and American Graffiti (1973). He then furthered his professional relationship with Coppola working on films like The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Conversation (1974), the latter which earned him his first Academy Award nomination. His first major contribution to film came on Coppola’s iconic Vietnam drama, Apocalypse Now (1979), for which he won his first Oscar. Murch used a multi-track recording system to create new sounds that invoked both physical tension and psychological drama against the back-drop of Coppola’s war epic. Murch went on to serve as both sound and picture editor for numerous films, winning double Oscars for The English Patient in 1996 for Best Editor and Best Sound Editor. His work with Coppola continued throughout his career, working on films like The Godfather Part III (1990) and Tetro (2009); he also received a double Oscar-nomination in 1990 for The Godfather Part III and Ghost with Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg. Continue reading →
A new independent drama starring Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, A History of Violence) is seeing a limited theatrical release this Friday. Written and directed by Matt Ross (The Aviator, Silicon Valley), Captain Fantastic tells the story of a man who raises and home schools his six children in the countryside. After his wife commits suicide, however, they are forced to move into the city, and he soon discovers the children are not prepared for the realities of life in the city. The film won Un Certain Regard Award for directing at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and also took home the Golden Space Needle Award at the Seattle International Film Festival. Starring in the film are actors George McKay (Defiance, Pride), Samantha Isler (Sean Saves the World, Dig Two Graves), Annalise Besso (Standing Up, Oculus), Nicholas Hamilton (Long Shadows, Strangerland), Shree Crooks (Ray Donovan, American Horror Story), Charlie Shotwell (The Comedians, Shot Down), and comedic vets Steve Zahn (Saving Silverman, Sahara) and Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers, Parks and Recreation). Continue reading →