Their Finest

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Their Finest

Runtime 120 minutes including credits
OK for children

Highlighted by award-quality performances by Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy, this is a terrifically involving tale of a woman who becomes involved in making a movie during The Blitz in 1940—the heavy air raids carried out over Britain by Germany during the Second World War.

Based on the 2009 novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans, Catrin Cole (Arterton) is an advertising copywriter patronizingly hired to write “slop” (female dialogue) for a film about twin sisters who took a small boat to Dunkirk to try to rescue stranded British soldiers.

Directed by Lone Scherfig, the film never lags. Although I was looking forward to it, I didn’t know what to expect. While the start was a little slow, as in most movies, it shortly started to blow me away. I can’t say enough about Arterton’s performance. I don’t expect to see a better one the rest of the year. As far as Nighy goes, I think this is his best performance, by far.

The film shows that making a movie is like making a sausage. If you watch one being made you never want to eat one. But if you don’t watch what goes into making a movie and all you see is the final result, it can captivate you, as this one did me.

There is nothing about this film that lets you down. The supporting cast is terrific and there’s even a fine cameo by Jeremy Irons as the Secretary of War.

In theaters:

The Zookeeper’s Wife (4 out of 5 swans): Jessica Chastain shines as Antonina ?abi?ska, a working wife and mother who, along with her equally heroic husband, Dr. Jan ?abi?ski (Johan Heldenbergh), became a hero during WWII saving Jews from the Nazis. The recreation of their tense life in Warsaw, with a Nazi constantly lusting after her, during those dark years is spellbinding, based on Diane Ackerman’s book and Antonina’s diaries.

Beauty and the Beast (4 out of 5 swans): A terrific entertainment combining live action with animation; the outstanding production numbers and orchestration make up for mediocre melody. Romantic enough, I thought Dan Stevens had a lot more sex appeal as the Beast (achieved through performance and facial capture technology, not makeup) than as the Prince. Visual and special effects are award quality.

Kong: Skull Island (4 out of 5 swans): Well directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (only his second film), the special effects, production design and cinematography alone are worth the price of admission, buttressed by the symphonic score that greatly enhances the action. And they should be since the estimated cost of production is around $185 million. Final kudos should go to the editor. I’m constantly carping about films needing good editing. This one got it, thanks to Richard Pearson.

The Last Word (3 out of 5 swans): Shirley MacLaine plays an octogenarian who knows who she is and is unapologetic. She does not suffer fools gladly, especially her estranged daughter, and walks all over everyone without a smidgen of concern for their feelings. She is accompanied on this journey by Amanda Seyfried and AnnJewel Lee Dixon, who plays a streetwise, foul-mouthed young girl. Both give good performances but MacLaine stands out. While similar in concept to last year’s The Meddler, in which Susan Sarandon was enormously annoying without a single redeeming feature, in this one McLaine eventually wins the viewer over, a much, much better written, better directed and better acted, movie.

Wilson (1 out of 5 swans): Warning! This is a movie for nobody. It is violent, profane, and without any redeeming social interest. I liked Woody Harrelson when he appeared on Cheers. But nobody could make this movie entertaining.

Norman is basically imbecilic with no people talent whatsoever. It’s never explained how he makes a living or survives. He’s just a character around which Johnson and writer Daniel Cloves have built an uninvolving story about unlikeable characters and absurdly contrived events.

As far as I can see there is no reason to go to see this, just as there was no reason to make it or release it. I would love to have heard how they pitched this to people who had to put up the money to make it.

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