Review – Judy

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text and closeup

Let me say that if Renée Zellweger isn’t nominated for a Golden Globe, Oscar, BAFTA and any other award along the way for “Judy”, it’ll be criminal. Zellweger, after a long hiatus from films, showed us why she is one of the best actors of the modern era. I never thought that anyone could out-Judy, Judy Garland, but Zellweger came awfully close. She brought Garland to life, and it was as if we were flies on the wall watching Garland go through all of her highs and lows (unfortunately more lows than highs in this last chapter of her life and career). Out of the performances I’ve seen this year, Zellweger as Garland is one of the best, if not THE best. When Zellweger launches into Garland’s songs, it’s a bravura performance. Zellweger is actually singing all of the songs in the film and I think she’s done Garland proud.

Image result for judy garland

“Spoiler Alert”

Judy Garland was a victim of a brutal inhumane Hollywood studio system, that was particularly destructive (physically and mentally) for young girls and women. She never experienced a real childhood, LB Mayer was a brutish authoritarian figure in her life and drove her past what anyone, especially a child, should ever endure just to make a film. And we see a lot of this torture and psychological assault in flashback scenes during the time she was cast in the Wizard of Oz. They plied a young Judy Garland with prescription drugs to keep her up (19 hour days were commonplace), they gave her pills to sleep, they deprived her of food because in that era, starlets and full-blown female stars were never small enough for the big screen (not much as changed, though it is a little better now). Garland was mocked because of her looks, and according to the studio bigwigs, she wasn’t a great beauty like Lana Turner, Ava Gardner or Elizabeth Taylor (she attended the studio school with them) and her low self-esteem, insecurity, coupled with her drinking and drug addiction plagued her for the rest of her all too short life.

“Judy” turned a big glaring spotlight on a woman who had a great talent, and made millions of people around the world happy, but could never quite figure out how to actually live, and find the stability she craved and the happiness she wanted in her personal life. She had no support system and was left to her own devices. Garland was ill-equipped to deal with her problems because of how she was raised within the horrific Hollywood machine. “Judy” is both a tragic cautionary tale, and a horror story about how Hollywood can use a person’s talent to make lots of money, suck the life and soul out of them, then throw them out in a world that they’re unfamiliar with, leaving them to fend for themselves, and move on to the next victim.

Yes the film was a little slow, but Zellweger held your attention so astutely, that you simply overlooked a few continuity issues and some dangling subplots that could have been explored a bit more. Another standout in the film was Darci Shaw who played a young Judy. She showed a lot of range, showcasing a young Judy’s fear of LB Mayer and her rebellious streak with just wanting to be a teenager and do the things teenagers do…a very good performance.

Judy Garland died of a barbiturate overdose at only 47 years old after her 5 week engagement in London, which is where the film ends.

“We cast away priceless time in dreams, born of imagination, fed upon illusion, and put to death by reality”. – Judy Garland

Image result for judy garland in the 1960s

SYDNEY CHANDLER is a Los Angeles based freelance journalist, essayist, screenwriter and producer. Sydney has written and produced documentaries, features, shorts, TV dramas and comedies. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Review: The Kitchen

Image may contain: 3 people, text

Nothing was really cooking in this kitchen. #TheKitchen flamed-out with a dismal $5.5 million debut given the high-voltage cast (Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elizabeth Moss) and a production budget nearing $38 million.

I went into the film expecting to be entertained, instead I was caught in a world-wind of inane dialogue and a storyline that is at the apex of improbability. There is so much to unpack with this film, where does one begin. It is set in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen in the 70’s. The story is about three women married to members of the Irish mob. Their husbands are arrested by the FBI, convicted and sent to prison. The mob is supposed to take care of them while the men are away, but it’s not quite turning out the way they thought, so the three women devise a grandiose plan to take care of themselves. They take over the protection rackets and then violently snuff-out the competition.

We saw a much MUCH better film of this nature in #ViolaDavis‘ #Widows. But in The Kitchen, we have a jumbled mob/crime thriller that is DOA, dead on arrival because it just doesn’t fit the era nor is it remotely believable. The 1970s was an era when patriarchy, sexism, misogyny and racism was still very much in-your-face. Here we have three women, with one being Black, who not only takes out members of the Irish mob to control Hell’s Kitchen, but they encroach upon the Italian mob’s territory, then forms a partnership with the Italian mob boss. Come on now. I know there were and are women in the mob, and many are prominent figures, but three ordinary housewives suddenly becoming hardened killers and taking all of five minutes to learn the business, is ridiculous. Then let’s not even get into all of the subplot’s twists and turns. It was dizzying and not in a good way. This film shows us that even when you have talented actors, they can’t save a bad script and bad direction.

#MelissaMcCarthy #TiffanyHaddish #ElizabethMoss

Review: Hobbs & Shaw

 

Image result for hobbs and shaw

No shade, but I didn’t like Hobbs & Shaw as much as I thought I would. There were some elements in the film that were cool, but overall, it was just a meh action flick. I like Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and of course Idris Elba. But the preachy monologues about “family” were way too syrupy for me, the macho testosterone fueled banter and posturing was tedious, and though Vanessa Kirby was supposed to be a badass, they still found a way to sexualize her. Hell, instead of #HelenMirren’s character being in prison, she would have been more fun to watch kicking ass. But, the way this film was shot and written, Mirren was too old for the demographic Hobbs & Shaw is geared toward. On the surface, I appreciated the homage Johnson paid to his Samoan heritage, but it honestly felt forced and had the feeling of pandering.

 

The action was good, but there was nothing in this film that I haven’t seen before in other action/adventure films in one form or another. Hobbs & Shaw was truly made for 18-24 year old males because “macho and testosterone” was in overdrive. I know Hobbs & Shaw is under the banner of the Fast & Furious franchise, and I also know that it rankled many of those who feel that Johnson swooped in and basically made the franchise about him instead of about the ensemble. But Hobbs & Shaw is definitely a stand-alone film. Other than the eye-rolling family subtext, this film has absolutely nothing to do with the Fast & Furious franchise. And by the way, killing Idris Elba was a bit irritating. A film about his character and how he came to be that evil and murderous, would be great. But it is Hollywood, his character can always be resurrected.
Directed by David Leitch. Starring #DwayneJohnson,
#JasonStatham#IdrisElba#VanessaKirby.

 

Synopsis: Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative join forces again, when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.

#HobbsandShaw

Image result for hobbs and shaw

Made It To The 2018 Cannes Film Festival

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most prestigious events within the entertainment industry. Careers are made, others are reignited and all are vying for the adulation of the press and fans, as well as validation from their peers. It’s like the qualifying rounds for the Olympics, except in this case, it’s next year’s Oscars.

One day soon, I’ll be on the other side of the camera because my projects will be contending for a nod from power-players as well as distribution. But at least after years of covering celebs and working in this industry, I know the pressure they’re under and how to handle the press.

But out of all of the premieres, award shows, various industry events, including the Oscars, Golden Globes and other film festivals, the Cannes Film Festival is still my absolute favorite. There’s something about the history and how everything about it, harkens back to that quintessential old Hollywood glam. I can almost see Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Dorothy Dandridge, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, William Holden, Marilyn Monroe, and the rest of the true old school  Hollywood glitterati, dressed in their finest gowns, dripping in diamonds and wrapped in furs, with the men in their dapper tuxedos, behaving in a manner that us mere mortals would imagine movie stars should…regal, otherworldly and what fantasies and dreams of a film career are made of.

Image result for Cannes Film Festival in the 1950s

Image result for Cannes Film Festival in the 1950s

Image result for Cannes Film Festival in the 1950s

Famous Stars of the Cannes Film Festival

James Bond at Cannes

Vintage Cannes Film Festival Photos

Image result for Cannes Film Festival in the 1950s

Image result for Dorothy Dandridge Cannes Film Festival in the 1950s

Image result for Dorothy Dandridge Cannes Film Festival in the 1950s

Image result for Brigitte Bardot at the Cannes Film Festival in the 1950s

Even walking through the corridors of iconic hotels like The Martinez and the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes (formerly just the Carlton Hotel), are filled with history. Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant has the Carlton  featured prominently. It really is true when people say…if walls could talk.

Related image

1950s

Image result for intercontinental carlton cannes

Present day

Image result for The Martinez in Cannes

The Martinez

 

At the Red Carpet Hollywood Premiere of Avengers: Infinity War

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Film Review: Proud Mary

I wanted to support Taraji P. Henson in her film “Proud Mary” and I’m glad I did. I know the critics savaged it and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 23%. But I’m veering off the freeway with this film. I think a lot of critics didn’t like it because they didn’t understand it, nor did they pick up on or appreciate the nod it gave to the so-called “blaxploitation” films of the 70’s. Another issue the critics appeared to have with Proud Mary is that it wasn’t filled with a ton of CGI, Special EFX and grandiose stunt sequences with the hero, or in this case, the heroine doing a lot of slow motion acrobatics, while mowing down 100 bad guys trying to kill her.

Proud Mary is a definite throwback to 70’s linear storytelling. It wasn’t filled with a multitude of subplots, random characters popping in and out, with no real connection to the overall narrative, and a bunch of not too subtle societal messages pounding the audience over the head like a sledgehammer. People in the theater also didn’t need a Ph.D in – “I think I’m so damned clever filmmaking”. It was a very easy film to watch and follow. The cinematography was clean, the action was just enough to move the story along and make you go WOW, the acting was good; Taraji P. Henson killed it as a badass hitwoman who can dispatch her targets without a second thought. Jahi Di’Allo Winston, who played the kid she looked after, was great. Danny Glover was also on-point as the crime boss Taraji’s character Mary worked for. Everyone cast in Proud Mary did their jobs well.

Were there some issues, of course. I thought the first half of the film moved a bit slow and there were a few small holes in the storyline, but it wasn’t enough to say Proud Mary is a bad film. The major problem with Proud Mary is that it wasn’t promoted enough, and for those who are addicted to slick, colorful, special EFX-laden films with an abundance of camera angle trickery, you’ll probably find Proud Mary boring and flat. But if you want a film that follows the screenwriter’s go-to, as in Freytag’s Pyramid, then you’ll find a warm place in your heart for Proud Mary.

As a sidenote: There were two films in the same vein as Proud Mary. The 1980 film Gloria with Gena Rowlands and the 1999 remake of Gloria with Sharon Stone. If you ever saw either of those films and liked them, then you’ll probably like Proud Mary.

Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. and His Enduring Legacy

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Racism is still that hound of Hell which dogs the tracks of our civilization” – Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967 from his speech Where Do We Go From Here.

Today we commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. who was prophetic and could clearly see the future of this country. Here we are in 2018, revisiting what King and others during this era, hoped would be in our rear-view mirror. We can still ask – “What happens to a dream deferred”? We have been plunged into a battle between good and evil, twisted and antiquated ideologies on race and gender, versus progressive, forward thinking regarding diversity and equality for all. We’re at the crossroads of our morality as a nation; if we ever want to stand on moral high-ground again, we must be better, do better and cast aside those who are dragging us into the abyss of hatred and injustice.

Martin Luther King Jr. has been gone for almost 50 years, and I feel that he would weep with sadness, and be consumed by the horror at how this country has regressed after the light of hope was cast across this nation with the election of Barack Obama, our first Black President. We have allowed racists and bigots to once again, overtake the good and decent denizens of the United States of America, and we must slay this insidious dragon once and for all if we are ever to fulfill the vision Dr. King had for our country and the world.

Let us not forget his partner in life as well as in the cause, the great lady, Coretta Scott King.

“Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others”. –Coretta Scott King.

She continued King’s legacy and because of her, he will never be forgotten and neither will she. Coretta Scott King is also the one who wrote the letter warning about Jeff Sessions racist leanings, yet Trump appointed him Attorney General, so Trump’s denials and platitudes ring hollow as always.

coretta-scott-king-3-raw

As we navigate the hate-filled terrain in our country, we need to remember that “WE THE PEOPLE” have choices. You see this photo, it is from the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech. We can make this happen again. Millions of us have had enough of the vile racism, bigotry and divisiveness coming from Trump and his agents of evil. The only way to put this administration on the ropes and to make a permanent change in this country, is to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. The time for action is NOW! Don’t allow all of those who fought and died for freedom, justice and equality, to have their sacrifices be in vain.

DTlYqaRXkAAlJse

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” – Martin Luther King Jr.