Don Shanahan reviews “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Darkest Hour,” “The Shape of Water,” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” on Every Movie Has a Lesson

 

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STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Throw out all of the Star Wars fan theories you’ve read or heard in the last two years.  Burn all of the guessing game memes and wannabe clever GIFs.  Ignore all of the online noise and irresponsible think piece editorials that have piled up on the web since Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Most importantly, relinquish whatever warped and selfish expectations that have been formulated by the blitz of marketing buzz.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes its mountain of hype and shoves it away to make something nonconformist and wholly compelling in quite possibly the richest and most expressive entry of the storied franchise.

DARKEST HOUR

For nearly the entirety of Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, the conversations of debate surrounding Britain’s war options during May of 1940 are commenced in closed-door forums.  The men in attendance all occupy positions of power as they decide the fate of an empire.  Most of them are dressed in fine suits, including the newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill, portrayed by Gary Oldman.  Others like Ben Mendelsohn’s King George VI don military regimentals adorned in medals.  None of them will carry the same burden as a working commoner or see a frontline like the 300,000-odd men presently under siege in the French port of Dunkirk.

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Since encountering its Chicago premiere back on October 26th as the Closing Night film of the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival, I have been racking my brain as to how to properly describe Guillermo del Toro’s wholly distinctive The Shape of Water.  I can echo others using genre-laced adjectives like “adult romantic fantasy” or an “R-rated fairy tale,” but even pull-quote material like that does not illustrate the experience.

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Martin McDonagh’s new film puts prickly in the pastoral, glazing its country charm with absolute acid every chance it gets.  Part stern crime drama and part small-town chicanery, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri displays the next level of McDonagh’s talent and potential.  Always the sharp storyteller since his roots on the Irish stage, McDonagh’s writing prowess elevates a premise that would fall flat as pure farce in other hands (say the Coen brothers) with a sharp edge for the honesty of consequences.

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