Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis Mondays and Fridays, 3-6pm CT

Monday, December 11, 2017

On My Monday Radio Show

I'll be back on KTRS today for my regular 3-6pm CT show. Among my guests will be: I hope you'll listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at

Movie Review: "Darkest Hour"

"Darkest Hour" is the third movie this year whose plot centers on the British Army being trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk by the Nazis in 1940. The first was "Their Finest," a light drama starring Gemma Atherton and Bill Nighy (my review is here). The second was "Dunkirk," Christopher Nolan's epic told from three perspectives in three different timelines (my review is here).

Now we get "Darkest Hour," with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in his earliest days as British Prime Minister. We've seen Churchill portrayed on screen before (both John Lithgow and Brendan Gleeson have won Emmys playing him in the last decade), but this is the best of the lot. The makeup job on Oldman is astounding, and his performance (sure to be nominated for Best Actor) is even better.

After the disastrous reign of PM Neville Chamberlain, Churchill was chosen to lead his country at a perilous time. The Germans had rolled through most of Europe with little resistance, and had trapped virtually the entire UK army at Dunkirk. Once they were wiped out, it wouldn't be long before the Nazis crossed the English Channel to attack Britain. While some in his government urged Churchill to try some sort of back-door negotiation with Hitler through Italy's Mussolini, he abhorred the idea, understanding that surrender could not be an option.

"Darkest Hour" portrays Churchill's meetings with Parliament, his war council, and King George VI during those difficult days. Unlike the action-heavy "Dunkirk," this movie is very talky, but never slow. We see Churchill portrayed not as a perfect man -- he drank too much and was never in good health -- but as a statesman trying to figure out how to lead his country and inspire its citizenry.

Joe Wright directs "Darkest Hour" with a keen eye for the subterranean corridors of power that Churchill must navigate, while also giving us scenes of his home life with wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), and his meetings at Buckingham Palace with the king (played by my "Mississippi Grind" co-star, Ben Mendelsohn), whose advisers were telling him to leave the island and rule in absentia for his own safety.

The biggest flaw in "Darkest Hour" is a scene towards the end in which Churchill rides the subway with common Brits in order to get their opinion on what he should do about the Nazis. The problem is that never happened. Wright and screenwriter Anthony McCarten invented the whole thing, which is a shame, because they got the rest of the Churchill story right.

Nonetheless, you should see "Darkest Hour," primarily because of Oldman's work in the role, but also because it's yet another part of world history most Americans know far too little about.

I give "The Darkest Hour" an 8 out of 10.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Brian Regan Tickets

I have two tickets to Brian Regan at the Peabody Opera House on 1/12/18 that I can't use because something's come up. The seats are in Row W, Orchestra Left Center, and come with Premier Parking in the Abrams Garage next door. If you'll cover my cost ($189), I'll be happy to transfer them to you. If you're interested, email me: paul (at)

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Tim Riley, National Churchill Museum

With the movie "Darkest Hour," opening today in St. Louis (with a remarkable performance by Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill), I called upon Tim Riley, chief curator of the National Churchill Museum, to discuss the man's legacy. He explained why the museum is in Fulton, Missouri, and the back story of the historic church that was moved there, brick by brick, from London, England.

Tim explained Churchill's leadership in fighting Germany during World War II, how he inspired his countrymen, and how he differed from his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. We talked about Churchill's relationships with US president Franklin Roosevelt, and why the latter didn't come to Britain's aide as the Dunkirk story was unfolding in May, 1940. We also discussed a low point in Churchill's career, when he opposed the Indian independence movement and wanted to crush its leader, Mahatma Ghandi. We even had time to get into World War I, Gallipoli, the Korean War, and Joseph Stalin.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 12/8/17

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed "Darkest Hour" and "The Disaster Artist." Then we talked about how the money a movie brings in is distributed and how much goes to the theaters that show it. We also discussed why the "Olaf's Frozen Adventure" short doesn't play before each showing of Pixar's "Coco" any more, what's wrong with the new trailers for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," what will happen when "House Of Cards" returns to Netflix without Kevin Spacey, and why you should stream the series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" on Amazon Prime.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 12/8/17

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun that you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Resign Of The Times, The War Machine, and How You Will Die. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 12/8/17

This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories include people parked in the wrong spot, a self-incriminating bank robber, and a toilet seat in the wrong position. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, December 08, 2017

On My Friday Radio Show

I'll be back on KTRS today for my regular 3-6pm CT show (listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at

In the first hour, with the movie "Darkest Hour" opening today, I'll talk with Tim Riley, chief curator of the National Winston Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri.

In the second hour, Max and I will review "Darkest Hour" and "The Disaster Artist," plus other movie/showbiz news.

In the third hour, you'll get a chance to test your topical trivia knowledge with my Harris Challenge, and I'll have another batch of Knuckleheads In The News®, too.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The End Of The Al Franken Decade

I'm disappointed in Al Franken, but not because he resigned from the Senate.

If the Democrats are going to claim the moral upper hand on the sexual harassment issue so they can wield it against Trump and the GOP in the mid-term elections, he had no choice. Besides, Minnesota's governor is a Democrat, who will likely name Tina Smith (the current lieutenant governor) to replace Franken until the next election, and then she'll have the power of the incumbency when she runs for re-election to that seat. So, it's not like the Dems had a one-vote majority they're sacrificing by urging Franken to step down.

My disappointment in Franken stems from my admiration for him both before and during his short political career. He always struck me as one of the smart ones, a rarity on Capitol Hill, a public official who seemed to care about using government to make people's lives better by carrying on the legacy of his hero, Paul Wellstone. That doesn't excuse Franken forcing his tongue down women's throats or grabbing their butts repeatedly -- for which he didn't apologize in his resignation speech -- but in a world where too many elected officials seem to have no idea what they're talking about, Franken stood out as different.

I have no idea what he'll do now, or if he can figure out a career path that gives him a third act, but once he does leave the Senate in a few weeks, it's going to be quite awhile before he re-emerges, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, is the US a better country without Al Franken in the Senate? You'll have to ask the women he assaulted.

Random Thoughts

I saw a commercial for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" tonight, and noticed that at the end, the MPAA adds this: "Rated PG-13 for sequences of science fiction action and violence." That's important, because there might be 11 or 12 people in the world who don't know what to expect from yet another "Star Wars" movie.

Vladimir Putin is running for a fourth term as president of Russia. I sure hope he can keep the US from interfering in the election.

After Trump announced he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (though I doubt he could find it on a map, let alone recognize it), several pundits said "this throws a crimp into the Middle East peace process." You mean the Middle East peace process that's been so successful over the last, um, 70 years? Seems to me it's been nothing but non-stop crimps.

There's a debate raging in the NFL over the league taking harsh action against some Steelers and Bengals players after their blatant and repeated shots to the opponents' heads the other night. Have these guys not followed the news of veteran players, long after their careers ended, having severe problems with brain injuries like chronic traumatic encephalopathy? How many ex-NFLers will have to die (some at their own hands) in their forties and fifties before this generation of players wises up and stops the cranial contact? While the NFL denied these injuries for years, it's good to see the league taking pro-active measures to try to cut down on it -- but the players have to do their part. For instance, even on the sidelines, players must stop congratulating each other by bashing each other on the helmet, or sometime smacking their helmets together. It's your skull, dammit, the place where you keep your brain, which should be telling you to stop doing that!