FlixChatter Review: JUDY (2019)

If you have not seen Judy Garland play Dorothy Gale in in the 1939 classic movie The Wizard of Oz than please stop reading this review now and go watch it! For everyone else, you know just how much fame and glory Judy Garland got for being the lead in the movie. But many don’t know about Garland’s last and most painful chapter in her life, just months before her death at age 47. The 2019 film Judy, directed by Rupert Goold and adapted for the big screen by screenwriter Tom Edge, is based on the Tony-nominated West End and Broadway play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter. The film stars Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland and takes up back to the year 1969, when the famous singer and actress arrived in London for a five-week run of sell-out concerts while struggling to come to terms with depression, alcoholism and substance abuse.

The film starts with a young Judy Garland (Darci Shaw) on the set of The Wizard of Oz in 1939 when she was only a teenager. She is told my MGM head Louis B. Mayer that the only thing that makes her special is her voice. He controls what she eats, when she sleeps, and practically all aspects of her life while filming The Wizard of Oz. Flash forward to 1969, Judy and her two kids Lorna and Joey are set to perform for a crowd in Los Angeles for a mere $150. After being kicked out of one hotel, Judy has no choice but to leave her children with their father Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell) while she goes off to London to perform at the Talk of the Town nightclub. Shortly before she leaves, she meets Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) at a Hollywood party and he promises to come see her in London one day.

Renée Zellweger & Finn Wittrock

When she arrives in London, she is introduced to her new assistant, a proper but charismatic Rosalyn (Jessie Buckley) and to concert show-runner Bernard Delfont (Michael Gambon) who is eager to show her off to the sold-out English crowds. Judy is less than thrilled to perform, still taking a steady diet of a pills, the same ones Louis B. Mayer had forced her to take to reduce her appetite and to help her sleep. She performs her first concert with a charming bandleader Burt (Royce Pierreson) and is greeted after the show by two fans who happen to be a middle aged gay couple. They end up going their apartment when all of the restaurants in London happen to be closed after midnight, leading one of them to make a royal mess of scrambled eggs, ones that even Judy could not fix but ends up eating anyway.

Finn Wittrock as Mickey Deans

On day, after a concert Mickey Deans surprises her in London and their instant emotional attraction to each other is evident. He promises her the world, and most importantly that she could come back to the United States with money and be with her children. They are married in London and Rosalyn and Burt gift them an insanely amusing yet dangerous display of indoor fireworks and firecrackers. We soon realize that Mickey’s promises are pretty worthless and the anxiety causes Judy to show up drunk at one her performances, as she is unable to perform and is booed off stage. Delfont is not pleased and chooses English singer and guitar player Lonnie Donegan (John Dagleish) to replace her as headliner. Devastated, Judy feels even stronger the pain of being away from her children. Sidney Luft comes to London to try to work out a custody agreement but that leads to nowhere.

Having been replaced as headliner of her own concerts, Judy begs of Donegan one last song before she departs the state, and she ends up being loved by the crowd, singing multiple songs including an absolutely breath-stopping performance of “Over the Rainbow” with the help of the crowd. I am not sure if it was Renée Zellweger’s version of the song, or the absolute sorrow that Judy Garland herself must have been feeling during that performance, but it is absolutely the moment of the movie and will probably be used in clips for her eventual run to garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.  Zellweger herself carries the movie quite well, even when there are slower and less important moments, but she is also aided tremendously by the brilliant supporting cast of Jessie Buckley and Finn Wittrock.

It’s hard not to be very emotional by the end of the movie, with Zellweger wearing her heart and emotions on her sleeve, and her desire to go out with the best possible performance she is able to garner. Judy Garland’s status as cultural and film star can’t be overshadowed by the final dark days of her career, but at least we can learn to be compassionate and continue to love and admire her as much as we do today. She is a true legend and this film cements that legacy. This film also may cement the legacy of Renée Zellweger, as she also deserves much the same redemption as Judy Garland deserved by the end of the movie.


Have you seen JUDY? Well, what did you think? 

Spotlight on FIVE Highly-Anticipated Fall Movies (Sept – Oct)

Happy Labor Day weekend, folks!

Can you believe it there is just one more day until September… which means Fall is looming around the corner. Weather-wise, I do love Autumn, though I’m not ready to give up Summer just yet. But in terms of movies, Fall is jam packed with a ton of intriguing movies leading up to award season. Now, there are simply too many to include in a single post, so I’m only going to narrow things down to just movies released theatrically in the US in September & October only. So here we go in order of release:

Downton Abbey (Sept 20)

The continuing story of the Crawley family, wealthy owners of a large estate in the English countryside in the early 20th century.

Ok so I’m not a diehard Downton fan, heck I didn’t even watch the last two seasons. But I did watch enough of season 1-2 to know who everyone is, and seeing the trailer did make me want to see it! The visuals look sumptuous and having the royals visit Downton would surely bring an extra dose of drama, not that the Crawleys are ever lacking of that. I’m most excited to see Dame Maggie Smith, let’s see what sort of quotable remarks she’ll make this time around. There are new cast members added as well, Imelda Staunton and Tuppence Middleton, both I’m familiar with from various British movies.

JUDY (Sept 27)

Legendary performer Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts.

I’m always intrigued by biopic about tortured artists, be it a painter, actor, singer, what have you. The trailer really moved me, despite me not having seen The Wizard of Oz in its entirety (yeah I know, I know) and not knowing much about Judy Gardland. I almost didn’t recognize Renee Zellweger the first time I saw her in the trailer, sounds like a role that might nab her some kudos come award season.

The Laundromat (Sept 27)

A widow investigates an insurance fraud, chasing leads to a pair of Panama City law partners exploiting the world’s financial system.

Oh man, this is one of those movies you watch for the cast!! Yes the premise definitely sounds intriguing and it looks like a fun movie despite its serious subject matter. But man, seeing Gary Oldman (what’s with his hilarious accent!) + Antonio Banderas behaving badly w/ Meryl Streep hellbent on exposing them, yeah I’m down for this!

Plus there are a ton of great actors in supporting roles, too: Jeffrey Wright, Robert Patrick, David Schwimmer, Will Forte, Matthias Schoenaerts, James Cromwell and Sharon Stone. I didn’t know Scott Z. Burns wrote this too, which I shouldn’t be surprised as he frequently collaborates with Steven Soderbergh. I hope to catch this in the theaters before it’s released on Netflix!

JOKER (Oct 4)

An original standalone origin story of the iconic villain not seen before on the big screen, it’s a gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society, and a broader cautionary tale.

I have blogged about this film before when the first trailer hit, but I’m including it here as the second trailer just came out yesterday which got me even more excited!! It’s been revealed that this film will be R-rated, and from everything I’ve seen it certainly looks genuinely ominous and dark, promising us a thrilling, suspenseful, emotional crime drama.

Per Indiewire, apparently director Todd Philips ‘spent a full year trying to convince the studio to allow him to make the violent and edgy comic book movie. He referenced 70s R-rated adult dramas Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The King of Comedy as his inspirations. Apparently it took months for the director to convince Joaquin Phoenix to do the role. Apparently he signed on after he’d play the Joker as “a complex flesh-and-blood character in shades of gray rather than a black-and-white cartoon villain.”

Parasite (Oct 11)

Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.

I first heard of this movie when it won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the first Korean film to ever win it. I’ve only seen Snowpiercer from director Bong Joon Ho, which I think is an excellent film. There have been plenty of films about the haves and the have-nots, but this dark comedy looks like something out of the beaten path and looks visually ravishing as well.

Apparently it got a 10 mins standing ovation at Cannes, which in and of itself isn’t a guaranteed that the general public will love it, but certainly made one curious nonetheless. An original story is always a welcome respite in a sea of reboots, sequels and franchises. The trailer promises us something unique that offers plenty of mysteries to keep us guessing.


I have blogged about Jojo Rabbit in this post, which is definitely one of my most-anticipated movies coming out in October!


So any of these on YOUR list of anticipated Fall movies? Let me know which ones that you can’t wait to see!

 

FlixChatter Review: Bridget Jones’ Baby (2016)

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To be honest with you I hadn’t paid much attention to this franchise. Yes I enjoyed the first movie but I wasn’t clamoring to see the sequel. But once I learned that Emma Thompson had written the script, well it changed everything! Her Oscar-winning script results in one of my fave film of all time, the 1995 Ang Lee’s version of Sense & Sensibility. This one also has a Jane Austen connection. Obviously w/ the main male character named after her most famous hero Mr. Darcy, but it’s also got Gemma Jones who played Emma’s mother in S&S as Bridget’s mom.

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In any case, we’ve got the bumbling-but-charming heroine back and Bridget is still as endearing as ever. Renée Zellweger remains committed as she was twelve years ago in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, it’s definitely the role she’ll be most remembered for. As the film starts with the song ‘All by myself’ we know immediately what state of mind she’s in, celebrating her birthday all by herself. It’s like a bus, you wait for one for weeks and suddenly two arrive at the same time! So, as luck would have it, within a week Bridget ends up running into a new guy Jack (Patrick Dempsey) and her beloved ex Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) who’s now married to a woman named Camilla. When I said *running into* these two guys, of course it involves more than that as our protagonist got knocked up.

The film pretty much revolves around the question ‘who’s the father?’ Don’t worry, I wouldn’t spoil it for you, though even if you do know who it is, it’s not really going to spoil the movie. The ongoing rivalry between Jack and Mark isn’t as explosive as the ones between Mark and the dastardly charming Daniel (played Hugh Grant), but it’s still pretty fun to watch. It’s interesting how Bridget first saw Mark in this movie at Daniel’s funeral, where they stole glances at each other. Of course Bridget Jones movies has always had a Cinderella fantasy aspect, but they turned it up a notch in this last one. It’s certainly fairy tale territory when you’ve got a hot, rich guy falling for you after witnessing you fall smack dab into a mud, never mind the fact that she wore dainty kitten heels to a Glastonbury music festival!

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I think the funniest bits involve Emma Thompson as Bridget’s OB/GYN, especially when she realized Bridget didn’t know who the baby daddy is. I wish she had more screen time as she’s always a hoot to watch. Whilst Thompson is new to the franchise, director Sharon Maguire is back again after directing the first Bridget Jones movie. I’d say this movie still delivers (pardon the pun) the laugh from start to finish, even if the movie itself might be uneven and some of the jokes feel past its sell-by date (Gangnam style? Hitler cats??) It’s ironic given the character actually says those exact words in the movie. But when the jokes are spot on, it’s thigh-slappingly hilarious. From the scene in the birthing class to the moment the two guys have to take turns carrying her to the hospital, they had me in stitches. The slapstick comedy involving a heavily pregnant Bridget and a revolving door is a moment of comedic gold. There’s also an amusing bit when Bridget and her anchor friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani) ended up bringing the wrong guest on the air for their cable news program. I certainly find myself laughing much more watching this than another female-centered British comedy Absolutely Fabulous.
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Zellweger’s still fun to watch as Bridget, even though her looks has changed so much since the last movie. It’s not a criticism of how Reneé looks at all. It’s just an observation that she might’ve done something to her face, and a testament of the pressure for actresses in Hollywood to defy aging. Dempsey as the new guy is quite a pleasant surprise to me, as I’m not his biggest fan of McDreamy. He’s actually got some comedic chops and his Jack is quite a contrast to the stiff-upper-lip Mark. Firth’s certainly got that perpetually-exasperated expression down pat ever since he played Mr. Darcy in 1995! He’s still Bridget’s ‘knight in shining armor.’ There’s even a scene of him coming through the fog in his long overcoat to *rescue* the damsel in distress, well it’s just Bridget being locked out of her own apartment. It’s so ridiculously over-the-top but in a cheeky kind of way.

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The supporting cast is great all around, from Bridget’s parents (Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones), and her trio of friends (Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson and James Callis) are all back albeit briefly. There’s a funny cameo in the beginning of Ed Sheeran but I actually didn’t recognize him as I don’t really listen to current pop music.

I laughed quite a bit watching this, so all things considered, this sequel is still riotously entertaining. The cast look like they’re having fun with this, especially Zellweger herself who’s still fun to watch as Bridget. I still think sequels are generally extraneous, but if you’re gonna do one anyway, better make it worth your while. I actually don’t mind watching this again when it’s out on rental, it’ll make for a fun girls’ movie night 😉

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Have you seen ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’? Well, what did YOU think?

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