Rants, Raves & Reviews: Judy

imagesWhere were the new movie releases this past summer? And I don’t mean the remakes of superhero flicks. I’m talking about good drama or even action movies – blockbusters that used to debut in July or August, or even September. Are they saving all the good movies for November, just in time for Oscar nominations perhaps? It would seem so with the list of releases set for this winter season.

Cathryn and I couldn’t remember the last time we went to a movie so we were happy to get out and see Judy, with Renee Zellweger portraying the famous singer Judy Garland. The previews looked enticing and the reviews raved about Renee and the story.

I didn’t know much about Garland prior to the movie, other than her performance in the Wizard of Oz. The film is about her life during and after Oz, and it taught me a lot. Considering what the movie executives did to the young actress, it was no surprise that she died at the age of 47.

The story was bleak at times, but many hollywood biographies usually are. As she was in real life, the movie Garland was likeable and easy to root for. Zellweger nailed the part and will surely win some awards for her performance. I felt as though I was on an emotional roller coaster following this woman’s life. The ending was heart-warming and a tear-jerker.

Cathryn and I both enjoyed the movie. She gave it a 10. I gave it an 8.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

HollywoodI think Cathryn and I may have felt this way about the last Quentin Tarantino movie we went to see; it sucked and was one of the worst movies we’ve ever seen. The best part of the movie was the soundtrack – lots of great songs from the 60’s and 70’s. Those responsible for set locations and wardrobe did a great job in reviving memorabilia and the fashion of the time.

To be fair we enjoyed some of the acting and the interaction between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Small parts or cameos by other big names weren’t enough to make this movie enjoyable. It started out slow and continued to painfully drag along right up until the explosive ending that was completely different than the real life events it mimicked.

Two other people in the audience left about half way through the yawner and we both considered following suit. I almost nodded off twice. Cathryn finally bailed about fifteen minutes before the ending which I thought was completely ridiculous. The whole movie was too long and drawn out.

In considering the little things we liked about the movie we’re each generously giving this flick a 2 out of 10.

Rocketman

rocketmanI had to think about this movie for a couple days to let it sink in. Given that time to mull it over I have to say I was not impressed by Rocketman – the story of Elton John. Cathryn loved the movie so this review will give you both perspectives. She liked the music selection and thought the actors playing John as a child and adult (Taron Egerton) did a fabulous job.

The film accurately mimicked many of the rock star’s wild and crazy outfits, but made no attempt to play his music in the order the songs were released. Theatrical creativity must have been the point since the song lyrics were used to describe the events of the artist’s stage in life. Oddly enough, it was Bernie Taupin who wrote the lyrics and Elton added the music.

For me the story dwells too long on Reg Dwight’s (Elton John) woe is me childhood. They show us how he came up with his stage name – the second half taken from John Lennon, but that fact in not true. Granted, John was executive producer of the movie, but he obviously decided to portray his life as he perceived it and not as how it actually happened. Thus there are other historical inaccuracies.

I was also unimpressed with the movie being a fantasy musical. I thought it took away from many of the great songs that I love. Nothing in the reviews I read said anything about the format. Overall the movie was still entertaining with a couple of zen moments to put you in the zone.

I rated it a 5 and Cathryn a 10 out of 10.

John Wick – 300 (Parabellum)

parabellumI use the number 300 instead of 3 – for the third installment of the John Wick, the master assassin. Seeing the film with an action-appreciating buddy, we couldn’t keep track of the bad guys killed by Wick. He commented later that it was the highest body count he’d ever seen in a movie, a bold statement considering other slaughter movies we’d seen, like Rambo 3 or Hacksaw Ridge.

I’ve always liked Keanu Reeves and that includes his John Wick character, but I started to chuckle after his first 30 or 40 kills. The man deserves credit for the way he handles himself in the action sequences – basically a two hour long chase and fight scene. He masterfully handles an assortment of weapons that must have taken hours of practice to successfully operate.

If you don’t mind a few dozen blood-spattering head shots and an overly violent plot, this movie could be for you. I do find it odd though, in this day and age, how movie makers can present us with such mindless slaughter, and add a dry touch of humor to make the film more entertaining. In a way this movie reminded me of the Walking Dead – the bad guys weren’t dead until you shot them in the head, in many cases more than once.

Enough about the violence. The movie has a highly paid all-star cast, perhaps to give the flick some credibility with movie buffs. I have to say I was shocked at the other online reviews I read from sites like Roger Ebert and company. So maybe it was just me…and my buddy, who thought there was enough carnage to call the John Wick movies a trilogy and leave it at that.

Cathryn could never have sat through this movie with her eyes open. I don’t think my buddy was too impressed. For the sake of mindless entertainment I give it 5 out of 10.

Mary Queen of Scots

maryHere’s a movie for all you Outlander fans. It’s about two different Queens from two different countries trying to control their own kingdoms, while maneuvering to combine the two and decide who will rule the British Empire.

It’s a true story that takes you behind the scenes of Scottish and English royalty, revealing their personalities, quirks, ambitions and idiosyncrasies. There is plotting and deceit and treachery that offer twists and turns throughout the story.

There are only a few recognizable faces in the cast, but the acting was superb. Outlander fans might also recognize some of the scenery and at least one castle in particular. Although the flick wasn’t one we were dying to see, Cathryn and I enjoyed it, both giving it a 7 out of 10.

The Mule

muleClint Eastwood says The Mule is the last movie he’ll act in, but oddly enough, he fit the main character’s roll perfectly. The story is about 90 year old horticulturist Earl Stone who takes on a job transporting dope for a Mexican cartel after his plant business goes belly up.

Earl was only going to make one trip, but upon seeing how easy he could make a pile of cash, he takes on bigger and bigger shipments. He uses the money to try and buy his way back into his family’s good graces.

Eastwood brings back Bradley Cooper for the role of a DEA Agent who is trying to make a name for himself, and to make his boss look good, by making a large cartel bust.

The movie is descent, perhaps a bit less intense than most of Clint’s work, but with a few life lessons about family and money. Cathryn and I both give it a 7 out of 10.

First Man

first manThere have been many movies made about space exploration, but First Man is unique in that it lets you see and experience the thrills and spills of travelling to outer space through the eyes of those who have done it. None of us mere mortals can even imagine how it feels to do the crazy and courageous stunts that the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts have done for mankind.

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A Star is Born

starI remember seeing the second remake of A Star is born with Kristofferson and Streisand, but barely remember the story. Besides acting in, and directing this latest installment of the tragic love story, Bradley Cooper wrote the screenplay. Although he personalized the movie by changing things like the music, he paid homage to the earlier versions by re-using character traits and certain things in the plot.

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