Renée Zellweger lights things up as Judy Garland in “Judy” in theaters. And “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is very exciting for fans of all ages.
It’s Viewing the Videos.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
There’s the usual mumbo jumbo about different universes in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” but in spite of that, the movie is an excellent choice.
All high school student/Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) wants is to do is take a summer vacation to Europe where he can execute his plan to get involved with the sparkling MJ (Zendaya — she goes by one name).
Surprise! He tries to leave the Spider-Man suit behind in Brooklyn, but his mother May (Marisa Tomei) slips it into his luggage when he isn’t looking. Guess it doesn’t take much to fool a teenage super hero.
He arrives in Europe, where the Marvel Universe taskmaster Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) forcibly enlists him to help Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) take on one of the elemental villains (fire, water, earth and air) who are laying waste to Europe in Venice, London and Prague.
Big, loud and lots of fun,
Taking on the role of Judy Garland, a musical legend whose best work in movies and recordings is still around, is a brave effort.
Renée Zellweger deserves credit for tackling the role and her performance is Oscar-worthy.
Her Judy Garland is not exactly an impersonation, but suggests the troubled inner person that was almost overtaken by her blazing talent.
The movie itself doesn’t measure up to her work. Director Rupert Goold gets stereotyped performances out of everyone except Zellweger, who must have overwhelmed him with her talent. His style as a director has no pacing or visual flow. The movie is set in 1968 London, which is an environment with tremendous vivid visual potential and Goold fails to take advantage of that.
Zellweger sings all the songs and while she’s not Judy Garland, she gives a unique and powerful portrayal.
Garland’s story is almost a mythical tragedy. Her lifelong addiction to pills and alcohol started when she was a child actress and was given uppers, kept on a perpetual diet, deprived of any semblance a normal childhood and worked 18 hours a day.
As a child star, her birthday party was staged for photographers and she was not allowed to have any cake to prevent her from gaining weight.
In 1968, broke and about to lose custody of her children, Garland traveled to London to perform at the legendary Talk of the Town Nightclub. The movie is framed with this event and uses flashbacks to fill in her story.
In London, Garland encountered yet another man who would take advantage of her: Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock). He seduced her, married her and then failed to deliver on his promises to solve her financial problems.
Zellweger’s performance is worth the price of admission even if the rest of the movie is somewhat lackluster. Worth seeing for her possible Oscar contending work.
Three Palm Trees.
“Downton Abbey” is a special gift for its fans and a delightful adult drama/comedy for the uninitiated.
Considered the most popular series ever to appear on PBS (it ran from 2011 to 2015), it told the story of the upper class Cawley Family in Great Britain, their servants and their lives in the mansion, Downton Abbey.
The movie picks up where the series left off in 1927, with the King and Queen coming to visit.
Series creator and screenwriter Julian Fellows has brought back all the favorite characters and added a few new ones. Returning are, among others; Violet, the Dowager Queen, played by the great Maggie Smith, who steals every scene she’s in; Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary; Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley; Laura Carmichael as Edith Pelham; and more than a dozen others.
Director Michael Engler, who directed a number of the broadcast episodes, has TV experience including “Empire” and “30 Rock.” He delivers a movie with a brisk, energetic feel that never seems plodding even though it’s mostly about people talking. It’s highly creative but never detracts from the plot or the characters.
The filmmakers also used a much larger budget to present a lush and elaborate environment with meticulous attention to detail down to the harnesses on the dozens of horses, the beautiful bespoke clothing on the characters and the breathtaking aerial shots of steam engines chugging through the English countryside.
The actual plot is interesting, with the royal visit causing all kinds of problems when the King’s servants attempt to displace the staff. There’s also a plot to kill the king and some other interesting touches.
But everything deals in different ways with the class system in Great Britain: the difference between the family and their servants and the differences between King’s servants and the Downton Abbey servants.
All in all, a joyous feast for fans of the series, and nice for non-fans as well.
Four Palm Trees.
FROM THE VAULT
Bridget Jones Diary (2001)
One Renée Zellweger’s (“Judy”) best roles is ‘Bridget Jones Diary,” where she starred with Hugh Grant and Colin Firth as a single woman in London who deals with the problems of being single, imperfect and perhaps overweight. Enjoy.
HOW WE RATE THE FILMS
Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.
New Releases are rated as follows:
Five Palm Trees: Must see
Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen
Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen
Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying
One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.