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Judy (2019) Review

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Judy

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland
Finn Wittrock as Mickey Deans
Rufus Sewell as Sidney Luft
Michael Gambon as Bernard Delfont
Jessie Buckley as Rosalyn Wilder
Director: Rupert Goold

Thirty years after starring in “The Wizard of Oz,” beloved actress and singer Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) arrives in London to perform sold-out shows at the Talk of the Town nightclub. While there, she reminisces with friends and fans and begins a whirlwind romance with musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), her soon-to-be fifth husband.

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I’m not too familiar with Judy Garland, I knew that she was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, that she was an actress and singer, and that she was in the 1950s version of A Star is Born. So a Judy Garland biopic sounded somewhat interesting to me at least. I first heard of this movie’s existence as basically Renee Zellweger’s vehicle for her second acting Oscar award, and it seems certain at this point that she’ll certainly nab the award soon. From the looks of things, Judy seemed like a rather typical and generic biopic on Garland, and unfortunately it is that, despite a good performance at the centre of it all.

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I can’t speak as to the accuracy of the movie to what happened in real life. No matter how much or little accurate it is to true events however, it should be handled in a way that it’s able to work as a movie, and they didn’t seem to make it particularly interesting. As I previously said, Judy on face value looked very much like a typical music biopic, and one of those Oscar bait movies, unfortunately it’s both of those. It follows those familiar story beats, and ultimately feels more like a sad and safe tribute to Judy Garland instead of digging deep into her. While there are some issues that she’s dealing with and they are put on display in the movie, it feels like they are deliberately understating them, and not exploring her or them at all. While I knew more about Garland after watching the movie than before, I still feel like there’s a lot I really didn’t know about her. The most I got out of learning about her were in the few flashback scenes of her early in her career, and those were the most interesting parts of the movie. I know a lot of people really hate the use of flashbacks, but honestly a lot more of them would’ve considerably helped to show and reveal a lot more about her. Sadly much of Judy is mainly just showing her a year before her death, which isn’t necessarily bad but you’ve got to have something interesting to say or show about her if you’re going to do that. The end result is just showing her slow decline… and that’s it, not much exploration of her during this period and why things certain things are happening. You’d think that the movie would connect some of the few flashbacks to the events happening in the movie (present day in the story) in some way, but no. Not to mention it’s really slow. I don’t mind a slow moving movie as long as it has something interesting or compelling to show or say, but Judy isn’t any of that. Each scene on its own is fine, but when you’ve got all these bland scenes one after the other and at such a slow rate, it becomes rather tedious to watch. You get the feeling that this movie felt comfortable just sitting back and letting Renee do her thing, which is great for her but terrible for the rest of the movie. Even the attempts at emotion throughout just come across as hollow, and the melodrama and soap opera-ness became grating than actually affecting. The only time it even gets close to being somewhat genuine was a section with Judy and a fictionalised gay couple, which actually worked alright. Additionally the ending scene was among the best parts of the movie, it gets a little cheesy at a point, but honestly that’s still something compared to the rest of the film.

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Literally the only reason to watch the movie is for Renee Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland. She’s definitely throwing everything into this role and the movie very much relies on her performance. However, she unfortunately falls victim to the typical clichés that similar roles and movies have, with a different look, doing a different voice, having large emotional moments (leaving awards shows plenty of options of clips to pick for her Best Actress clip) and her character going through the same scenes that we’ve seen plenty of other movies do before. Now they very well may have happened in real life, but the writing lacks enough depth for it to feel genuine. Thankfully, Zellweger carries much of the movie and elevated it just a little bit. Had everything around her been a lot better, I’d probably go so far as to say that she’s incredible. She handles the singing side of things reasonably well too, she’s no Judy Garland, but not many people are. The rest of the cast aren’t lacklasture or anything either. They are decent, with the likes of Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon doing well in their respective roles.

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Much of Judy is directed okay but there’s nothing that stands out at all about it. Director Rupert Goold previously made True Story, a movie I thought was pretty good and also had more to it on the directing side compared to Judy. Nothing is necessarily bad here, it’s shot and directed reasonably well, on a technical level it’s all fine (the makeup on Renee to make her look like Judy Garland was great). However everything feels like it’s on complete autopilot, and lacks any kind of energy, with maybe the exception of the last scene.

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There’s a lot of potential for a biopic of Judy Garland to be a fantastic movie from a biopic of Judy Garland, but the end result is bland, uninteresting, and not really that good. Even if you want to learn more about Judy, the film doesn’t explore her or really show enough about her for it to be satisfying. Not to say the movie doesn’t have its upsides, the acting is generally good, with the highlight being Renee Zellweger’s performance, and with her winning an Oscar, it might be worth checking it out for that. Beyond the acting however, don’t expect much more beyond that.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Cast:
Jimmie Fails as Jimmie Fails
Jonathan Majors as Montgomery “Mont” Allen
Danny Glover as Grandpa Allen
Tichina Arnold as Wanda Fails
Rob Morgan as James Sr.
Mike Epps as Bobby
Finn Wittrock as Clayton Newsom
Director: Joe Talbot

Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and his best friend Mont (Jonathan Majors) try to reclaim the house built by Jimmie’s grandfather, launching them on a poignant odyssey that connects them to their past, even as it tests their friendship and sense of belonging in the place they call home.

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I didn’t really know anything about The Last Black Man of San Francisco outside of it being distributed by A24, but the people who have seen it have mostly raved about it, and it’s even reached many peoples’ best films of the year lists. I’ve been meaning to get around to it for some time, and I finally did. I was going in blind and I found myself to be quite surprised by what I saw, it’s a really great movie that more people should be watching for sure.

First thing to note is that this is a semi biographical movie (partly based off Jimmie Fails’s own life), and it certainly feels that way, it’s very much a personal story. It’s incredibly well written by Rob Richert and director Joe Talbot, particularly with the dialogue. Throughout this movie it just felt so fresh and different, and it kept me interested throughout. There’s just one thing that sort of holds it back a little. It doesn’t seem like the story has a whole lot of focus, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, plenty of movies aren’t necessarily driven by something. However I wasn’t really sure where the movie was moving towards really, so it felt like it meanders a little bit and you’re just following along, seeing what this movie is really about. With that said, it still kept you invested throughout, and I get the feeling that the movie might now be better on a rewatch. Though I’m not sure many people will be revisiting it, as great as it is. It’s rather melancholic and emotional, but in a genuine way, none of the major emotional scenes feel forced or anything. It’s pretty hard selling what this movie is really about, so it’s one that you’ll have to see for yourself.

The acting is quite great, with the main leads being of Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors, and both are fantastic. Both performances feel real and have good chemistry, and you really believe that the two of them are best friends. Supporting actors like Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Mike Epps, and Finn Wittrock also work in their respective roles.

This is the directorial debut from Joe Talbot, and this is an incredible feature film to start his career with, he’s clearly a very talented filmmaker based off this movie alone. It’s an amazing looking movie (shot by Adam Newport-Berra), featuring some of the best cinematography of the year, and given some of the movies released this year, that’s saying a lot. The score by Emile Mosseri was also fantastic, one of the most memorable movie scores all year. All the music in general really stood out and perfectly fitted the movie., days later the music was still in my head. Pretty much everything on a technical level is handled spectacularly. While it’s not the only reason to watch the movie, it’s worth watching The Last Black Man in San Francisco for the direction alone.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is one of the biggest surprises from 2019, and it’s really great on the whole. The writing is solid, the acting is fantastic (especially Fails and Majors), and it’s directed spectacularly. It’s fresh, sincere and personal, and was a real stand out from 2019 movies. I’m looking forward to seeing Talbot direct more movies, because he’s shown himself to be a real talent here. Definitely check it out when you can, it deserves a lot more attention than it has been receiving.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) Review

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
KiKi Layne as Clementine “Tish” Rivers
Stephan James as Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt
Regina King as Sharon Rivers
Teyonah Parris as Ernestine Rivers
Colman Domingo as Joseph Rivers
Brian Tyree Henry as Daniel Carty
Ed Skrein as Officer Bell
Emily Rios as Victoria Rogers
Michael Beach as Frank Hunt
Aunjanue Ellis as Mrs. Hunt
Ebony Obsidian as Adrienne Hunt
Dominique Thorne as Sheila Hunt
Finn Wittrock as Hayward
Diego Luna as Pedrocito
Pedro Pascal as Pietro Alvarez
Dave Franco as Levy
Director: Barry Jenkins

In early 1970s Harlem, daughter and wife-to-be Tish (KiKi Layne) vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together, but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

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If Beale Street Could Talk has been a movie I’ve been meaning to see for a while and it’s partly the reason why I have been holding off on making my favourite films of 2018 list. The main standout part was that it comes from Barry Jenkins, the writer/director behind Moonlight, an excellent film that rightfully won Best Picture of that year. I had been hearing so many great things about his latest film and I am so glad I waited to see it. I had a great amount of anticipation for If Beale Street Could Talk, and yet it blew me away, it was absolutely phenomenal.

Like with Moonlight, the film was written by Barry Jenkins, this time it’s based on a book of the same name by James Baldwin, however you can really feel that this is a Jenkins movie. It’s actually pretty difficult to explain why If Beale Street Can Talk works as well as it does, however I’ll do my best. Everything about the writing, from the story, to the dialogue and the characters feels so incredibly real and genuine, you really feel like you’re watching a real story with real people. You just get so emotionally invested with the characters. Yes, given the premise you’d be right to say that it’s quite melancholic at some points, because it is, given that it’s surrounding a black man being put in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit. However it’s not just one big long depressing watch, it feels very natural and human, with happy moments, humorous moments, sad moments and the like. Honestly the only thing about the movie that I might take issue with might be that there’s a scene where we get to see the families of both Tish and Fonny, and while we get a brief look at the family dynamics, we don’t get a dive enough into the conflicts beyond that one scene, it’s a very minor nitpick however and isn’t that big of a problem. The movie ends on a bit of an open note, but it was the perfect ending for the film.

There are a lot of actors involved with the movie and they all do a great job, no matter how big or little their roles are. KiKi Layne and Stephan James play the leads of Tish and Fonny, and they are really great. We only get some glimpses into their romance in the time before Fonny is arrested, however in the moments we get, they are very believable together and their chemistry is truly great. Often times when it comes to a romance movie, even if it gets most aspects well, I would feel very underwhelmed if I’m not truly invested in the lead relationship. Thankfully, Beale Street’s central romance works excellently. Layne is particularly wonderful in her role as the central lead, definitely deserving of a lot of praise. Regina King is really great as Tish’s mother, I can see why she’s the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actress at this upcoming Oscars. Brian Tyree Henry is also briefly in the movie as a friend of Stephen James and while he’s not in a lot of scenes, he is a standout in his screentime. The rest of the cast were all really good. Even those who show up for a scene or two, whether that be Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal or Ed Skrein, they do great jobs at making themselves memorable for their screentime, and not necessarily just because you recognise them.

Barry Jenkins once again directs absolutely wonderfully here, like with his writing you can definitely tell this is a Jenkins film from his direction. Everything is so perfectly put together. I also noticed that there were plenty of visual storytelling moments, they are very sublte and small, and not a lot happens, but they tell so much. It’s a beautiful looking movie, with James Laxton’s great cinematography really adding a tremendous amount to the movie and at times really giving it a dreamlike vibe. That vibe is also helped by the score composed by Nicolas Britell, which was great.

If Beale Street Could Talk is fantastic and one of the all time best films of 2018. It’s a heartfelt and emotional movie, it’s perfectly written, the performances are great and Barry Jenkins’s direction was fantastic. I am absolutely astounded that despite floating around multiple film awards, it was shut out for Best Picture, had it been nominated this year it would’ve been my pick for it. I’m not sure how it ranks against Moonlight, I’ll need to rewatch it to be sure, but If Beale Street Could Talk is still a fantastic film on its own and is an absolute essential watch.