Do You Want to See Peter Dinklage Sing About Vicarious Love? Then Maybe Check Out the Latest Version of ‘Cyrano’

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Cyrano (CREDIT: Peter Mountain/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Bashir Salahuddin

Director: Joe Wright

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some War Violence and Mild Suggestiveness

Release Date: January 28, 2022 (Limited Theaters)/February 11, 2022 (Wide Expansion)

If you’re a fan of classic romances, you’re probably familiar with the story of Cyrano de Bergerac. He’s in love with a woman named Roxanne, but because of his insecurity related to his distractingly large and pointy nose, he struggles to admit his true feelings. Meanwhile, Roxanne falls in love with another man named Christian, and that infatuation is profoundly deepened by Christian wooing her with the words provided to him by Cyrano, who knows Roxanne better than anyone. But in this version, it’s what Cyrano lacks on his body that’s causing the problem, as he’s portrayed by Peter Dinklage, and he fundamentally doesn’t believe that Roxanne (here played by Haley Bennett) could ever truly love someone who’s only four and a half feet tall.

Also unique about this version of Cyrano is that it’s – wait for it – a musical. Much of the vocal duties fall to the title lover, and Dinklage is certainly up for the assignment. He has a rich, soulful baritone that’s perfect for the constant (but incomplete) soul-searching that Cyrano is always up to. You can count on him for talking to himself, which can be good, but not so much when it prevents him from fully and honestly talking to other people.

Dinklage’s singing reminds me of Russell Crowe’s in Les Misérables, and I mean that’s a compliment. Crowe was my favorite singer in that movie! It would be distracting if Dinklage’s Cyrano were more inclined to difficult vocal acrobatics; instead, he’s singing because he just can’t help it, just as he can’t help but miss out on the fullness of himself. As for the rest of the main cast’s crooning abilities, Bennett and Kelvin Harris Jr. as Christian also both acquit themselves admirably.

Overall, if you’re looking for a love story that lives on the knife’s edge of tragedy and consummation, then Cyrano ought to do the trick. Everyone is passionate and ready to go, and if you don’t recognize at least some of their emotions in yourself, I’m not sure you have a fully functioning heart.

Cyrano is Recommended If You Like: Flowy dresses, Stubble, Singing by yourself while standing outside a wall

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Letters

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 5/14/21

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The Underground Railroad (CREDIT: Amazon Prime Video/YouTube Screenshot)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Army of the Dead (May 14 in Select Theaters, May 21 on Netflix)
Oxygen (May 12 on Netflix) – Directed by Alexandre Aja, but no piranhas.
Profile (Theaters)
Spiral (Theaters) – Chris Rock joins the Book of Saw.
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Theaters and HBO Max) – Might check out to see what Angelina Jolie is up to.
The Woman in the Window (May 14 on Netflix) – Joe Wright directs Amy Adams.

The Underground Railroad (May 14 on Amazon)
-2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards (May 16 on MTV)
-2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Unscripted (May 17 on MTV)
-2021 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions (May 17-28, check local listings) – 19-game winner Jason Zuffranieri looks like the one to beat.

-Aly & AJ, A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun – This came out last week.
-St. Vincent, Daddy’s Home
-The Black Keys, Delta Kream – Dan and Pat cover hill country blues.

This Is a Movie Review: Gary Oldman Disappears Into Winston Churchill’s ‘Darkest Hour,’ and the Result is Fascinating But a Little Too Stiff

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CREDIT: Jack English/Focus Features

This review was originally posted on News Cult in November 2017.

Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane

Director: Joe Wright

Running Time: 125 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for War Talk and a Dash of Naughty British Humor

Release Date: November 22, 2017 (Limited)

How do you solve a problem like a mumbling lead character? You could make him not mumble, but of course that’s not really an option when he is a real person whose mushmouth is historically accepted fact. So then you could make the difficulty to understand him part of the point, but could that really work when he is known for inspiring his country to plow ahead in a time of crisis? Darkest Hour certainly does not take it easy on Winston Churchill (an exceptionally unrecognizable Gary Oldman). Nobody in Parliament thinks he is up to the task, but somehow he manages to fire up the British citizenry for the war effort without having to tamp down his prodigious appetites. Maybe the men and women on the street appreciate all the bluster thickly surrounding all of his words.

Darkest Hour is the third in 2017’s (accidental) trilogy about Britain’s early days in World War II. First came Their Finest, depicting the production of a propaganda film about the evacuation of Dunkirk. Then of course there was Dunkirk, about the evacuation itself. And now Darkest Hour presents the political maneuverings surrounding these same events.

With Germany holding the upper hand in 1940, the crux of Darkest Hour’s conflict is Churchill wrestling with the decision of whether to negotiate with Hitler or to rally the nation to keep fighting. This is a more complicated narrative than the simplistic version many of us have been told, in which the concessionist Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) gave way to the bulldog Churchill. In fact, Chamberlain’s decision to step down may have had more to deep with his creeping cancer. And I am no expert on British government, but Darkest Hour makes it clear that the executive forces on Chamberlain’s side were very much still present when Churchill ascended.

As a character study, this film is best regarded as a portrait of Churchill awkwardly slipping into the suit of the prime ministership. With his bulbous shape, and that physicality serving as a shield over his lack of self-confidence, so much of Churchill’s life is ill-fitting. Darkest Hour is similarly aesthetically unpleasant, in ways that I imagine were both intentional and unintentional. It cannot be helped that England is often a dreary country, and it is fair that that should be emphasized. Also reasonable but frustrating is the decision is to set many of the scenes in the deepest and most cramped bureaucratic interiors.

So it is quite a relief when Churchill and Darkest Hour trek out into the world, turning to the opinions of everyday Londoners riding the tube. The message here, at least as far I take it, is not so much that the commoners won the war, as much as it is that breaking out of your constrictions is always a good idea, whether you are a prime minister, an Oscar-angling motion picture, or anyone or anything else. So there is plenty of inspiration to draw from this film, though its shape may feel a little stitched-together.

Darkest Hour is Recommended If You Like: Winston Churchill mania (it’s hot right now), The King’s Speech, Chugging a Scotch and Puffing on a Cigar While You Watch Movies

Grade: 2.75 out 5 Litanies of Catastrophe