The Mummy with Tom Cruise, pure hokum; try Megan Leavey or Churchill instead

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CHURCHILL:  Although dozens of actors have portrayed Winston Churchill in the movies, I’ve never seen him like this before. In this British film starring Brian Cox he’s unsure, regretful, hesitant, obstructive.  Not a fight on the beaches kind of guy at all. That comes out as he argues loudly against mounting the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944 on the beaches of Normandy. They’re heavily fortified and he’s sure thousands of young men will die in the German machinegun fire. Much like Gallipoli in the first world war, an invasion he proposed and for which he took the blame.


That memory haunts him as he opposes Operation Overlord, the giant naval assault devised by Eisenhower, Montgomery, Brooke and others. He told it to them all, and to the king too, according to this film. But did he do it with this much fervor? He seems out of control at times. Did he really pray for rain to forestall the assault? The end credits caution that since much of this has been fictionalized we shouldn’t see it as true history. As drama it works though, just fine. Churchill may well have had those regrets and Cox captures the anguish he might have felt. He’s got his mannerisms and often his appearance. And Miranda Richardson is steady and calm as his wife Clementine who talks some sense into him.  (International Village) 3 out of 5

IT COMES AT NIGHT: The problem is, we don’t know what it is. And we never do find out. So, if you like your movies to wrap up all the questions, this one is not for you. If you’re able to take uncertainty and unexplained mystery give it a try. It’s masterful in how the director, Trey Edward Shults, whips up an atmosphere thick with tension and paranoia. Imagine how primitive people cowered around the campfire at night, fearful at any noise they hear out beyond the light, and you’ll get the feeling this film conveys.

Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo play a couple who live with their teenage son in a dark house far in the woods. They wear a gas mask when they go outside and, when grandpa turns sick, burn his body before burying him. Something infectious, a plague maybe, is about. We’re never told what. The film keys on how people react instead.  The fright and dread are set in motion when an intruder (Christopher Abbott) is discovered. He’s so convincing in his defence (just looking for water) that he’s allowed to move in with  his wife and young child. Anyway, he’s got food to offer. Nobody trusts anybody though and a series of small incidents stir up everyone’s suspicions about each other. It works fine as a study of our fear of the unknown but it feels very slow since it leaves us wondering so much of the time about what is going on. (International Village and three suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5   

MY COUSIN RACHEL: Here’s another film that leaves you guessing. This time you won’t mind it, though because you’ll have lots to talk about. Complaints will be elsewhere: about the low energy in this psychological drama. It’s from a novel by Daphne Du Maurier who wrote gripping tales like Rebecca, The Birds and Jamaica Inn (all three filmed by Hitchcock). The third filming of this story is mysterious but hardly gripping.  The director, Roger Michell, is an old hand with lighter fare like Notting Hill and Le Week-End.   


Sam Claflin, as the narrator and victim, gives a low-key performance. Rachel Weisz, as his cousin by marriage, is suitably enigmatic and alluring. Her husband wrote in letters that she was always watching and controlling him. So when he dies and she turns up at the family estate in Cornwall the suspicion is understandable: that she killed him. We ponder that assertion right to the end of the film as Sam seeks to expose the crime and punish her but fails to. Instead, he becomes attracted to her, even when the special tea she serves him enervates  and causes near-hallucinations and he suspects she’s after the family land. It’s an intriguing plot line played out in beautiful settings in England of the 1830s. There’s a dab of female empowerment written in too. The trouble though is that as the mystery deepens, the tension should too. It hardly turns more than mild. (5th Avenue and three suburban theatres) 3  out of 5


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