Gremlins (1984)

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We are continuing the October Horror Binge here at EYG Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed and now we come upon a horror/comedy classic from the early 1980s, Gremlins.

When inventor Rand (Hoyt Axton) purchases a cute, fuzzy creature called a Mogwai from a Chinatown store, he is given strict advice.  “Don’t expose him to bright light. Don’t ever get him wet. And don’t ever, ever feed him after midnight.”

Well, it is not long before Billy (Zach Galligan) has broken all three of these rules and the result?  The Mogwai, that the family has called Gizmo, starts to multiply.  And the results are not near as war and fuzzy as Gizmo.

My memory of seeing this movie originally when I was young was that I was not very thrilled by it.  In fact, I seem to remember even not liking the movie.  It has probably been over thirty years since I saw this movie and, while my opinion sometimes varies on some films, unfortunately, I had the same reaction to Gremlins that I did when I first saw it.

I was unimpressed.

I will say that I liked the practical effects of the movie.  There is no way we would get something like this today.  Today’s version would be full of CGI and special effects that would make the Gremlins feel more real and less special.  The cuteness of these little creatures more than made up for any lingering problems with practical effects.

The rest of the film was not great.  There was a forced story for side characters, including Phoebe Cates.  There was a horrific role for Polly Holliday (Flo from the Alice TV show) who appeared to be playing the Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz.

Hoyt Axton did voice over at the very beginning and at the very end of the movie and it felt out of place after seeing the entire film.

Sure there were some cute moments and the Gremlins are imaginative, but the human characters are lacking and the story itself is simplistic.  I found myself bored by much of the movie and it reinforced my first impressions of Gremlins all those years ago.

overrated

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Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

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I had not intended on doing this film, but as I was flipping around the TV, I came across Halloween H20: 20 Years Later on AMC.  So I decided to watch it as part of the October Horror Binge.

I know this movie has been expunged out of existence by the most recent Halloween (2018) that was a direct sequel to the original film.  All other Halloween movies are tossed aside into the world of non-canon.  That was probably a wise choice.

Here, Jamie Lee Curtis returned to her role as Laurie Strode, now living under a pseudonym and working as a dean of a northern school.  She is drastically over protective of her son (Josh Hartnett) who is getting tired of the family boogyman.  Unfortunately, it is Halloween and Michael Myers is back with his knife.

It was weird hearing Laurie call Michael her brother, as this was one of the twists in the series that had been expunged by the reboot.  That is a wise move as all of that connection felt very forced.

Then, this movie could not have crammed any more jump scares into the film’s run time.  There were jump scare after jump scare and most of them were simply the music getting louder and someone jumps out and surprises the character.  In other words, fake outs.  These may work once in a while, but I swear the first half of the movie was nothing but fake out jump scares knitted together with a thin connective tissue.

Jamie Lee Curtis is great as always. There is actually quite an impressive cast here as the cast included Michelle Williams, Adam Arkin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, LL Cool J, Janet Leigh, and Josh Hartnett.  Nobody gave their career best performance here though.

Michael Myers showed up in the third act and stomped around and really did not do much more than kill a few supporting characters.  It was not very well done.

I am not sorry this has been removed form canon.  It deserved to go.

meh

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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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With the October Horror Binge in full swing, I decided to take a step into the world of psychological thrillers with horror elements.  And what better film to fall into that category than the classic Oscar winning The Silence of the Lambs, starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins?

Has there been a more terrifying and intense performance than Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter?  It is why he was able to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for the role when he only actually appears on screen for a little over 16 minutes.

Jodie Foster brings the goods in this movie as Clarice Starling, a young FBI cadet who is sent in to see Lecter in an opportunity to pick Lecter’s brain about another serial killer, ‘Buffalo Bill’ (Ted Levine), who skins his victims.  Lecter takes a strange liking to Clarice and leads her to clues on the case.

While the leads get a lot of the well-deserved attention, Ted Levine does not get the credit he deserves for creating one of the most disturbing and frightening serial killers that we have sen on screen ever.  Some of Levine’s moments are absolutely menacing and horrifying.  It is unbelievable that the actor Ted Levine who played Buffalo Bill is the same actor who played Leland Stottlemeyer on Monk.

Director Jonathan Demme is masterful in the creation of suspense and tension. The shots are both disturbing and beautiful all in one.

If you have not seen The Silence of the Lambs, this is the ultimate film of suspense and tension.  The film contains a bunch of outstanding performances and some of the best direction you will ever see.  It is an all-time classic and worth the re-watch any time.

paragon

 

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Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

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After the frightening horror of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I was ready for a change in the October Horror Binge.  So I went back to a couple of old friends:  Abbott & Costello.  This time, the comedic pair are meeting up with the Mummy.

The final of the Universal films featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meting up with Universal monsters.  They had met Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and then the Mummy.

The film contained all of the typical Abbott and Costello bits, including a take on the famous “Who’s on First” routine using the word “Mummy.”  Another bit that made its way into many Abbott & Costello films was Lou seeing something, being scared, running to Bud only to have the thing disappear by the time they returned.  It was a routine they did regularly, and it appeared here many times.

In fact, the repetition shows how the duo has started to slip.  The comedy of Abbott & Costello was losing steam after a long stretch of success and in Abbott & Costello Meets the Mummy, you can see the strain.

And yet, looking back there are funny moments.  I have loved Bud & Lou for years and this, albeit not their strongest work, was a nice palate cleanser after the insanity of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Underwhelming

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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The October Horror Binge continued tonight with what many consider one of the most influential horror films of all time.  The film that helped create the genre of slasher films that included giant, faceless hulking beasts as killers:  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre featured the killer known as Leatherface and a severely creepy film that is listed as “based on true events” though that it not actually true.  I mean, the story is fiction, but Leatherface himself is said to be based on serial killer Ed Gein.

The film has a realistic feel to it as it does not seem to be a studio movie.  The actors feel as if they are just kids coming across this monstrous killer and the whole film has a documentary type vibe going down.  That creates even more terror than something that is slick and perfect.

What is even more frightening is that this is something that could happen.  Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers are all characters that have some kind of supernatural/mystical binge to them, but Leatherface is basically a crazed cannibal in a mask with a chainsaw.  That is something that could happen.

And then it becomes so bat shit crazy that the horror really grips you.  The whole Grandpa bit was about as creepy as I could stand.  I had never seen this movie before and the portrayals of these crazy villains were not what I had expected.  Even Leatherface was one of the more original creatures you would ever see.

And all of that screaming.  And those extreme close ups.  Man, it is an unnerving film and I can see why it was controversial.

I found it somewhat unsatisfactory at the end because I was invested in seeing this weirdo family get what was coming to them and I only got a little of that.  Again, it is very much like other horror movies that do not end with a happy ending.  And truthfully, there was a survivor.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a film that I would want to watch on a regular basis, but I did appreciate seeing the classic film during this binge.

classic

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Gemini Man

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Because I watched Jexi directly after Gemini Man, it made Gemini Man seem better than I remembered.

But it is not good.

Will Smith played Henry, one of the greatest sharpshooters around, wants to retire and live a more peaceful life.  However, the government does not want to lose him so they send an assassin to kill him.  And it just happens that the assassin they sent was a younger version of Henry, called Junior.

Why would they do that?  The main villain, the man who raised Junior, Clay Verris (Clive Owen), seemed to want to treat Junior as his own son, unless the plot did not need that to be.  The third act with Clay was ridiculous.

Then, the de-aging technology (which is apparently just CGI and not the de-aging tech used in Marvel movies and such) is truly not as great as what I had heard.  There were times when the tech looked fine, mainly in the dark, but the rest of the time, that CGI is terrible.  There just is not any emotion in the face.

The dialogue is horrible.  There is so much exposition in this movie that is repeated over and over again.  The plot is dull.  Most of the action is boring or stupid.  There is a decent motorcycle chase, but it ends with such stupidity that it ruins the entire scene.  Otherwise, it is just a bunch of shooting.

Will Smith was good, but he could only do so much.  There is no reason why old Will Smith and young Will Smith’s relationship flipped multiple times and for no real reason.  I did not buy what happened even a little.

In the end, this one was not good.  It was long and dull and the CGI was nowhere near as amazing as some people think it was.

2.2 stars

Jexi

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I had not heard much about this movie. After watching it, I understand why.

Jexi is a film starring Adam Devine as Phil who is obsessed with his smartphone and who spends very night home, alone and staring at the screen.  When his phone is damaged, he has to get a new one and his new phone comes equipped with an A.I. (like Siri) named Jexi (Rose Byrne).  However, Jexi is unlike other operating systems.

Jexi is mean.  Jexi swears at Phil.  She insults him.  She dominates him and she takes over his life.  As this is happening, Phil meets the lovely Cate (Alexandra Shipp) and falls for her.  Jexi tries to help Phil with this relationship until things go south.

Things went south in this movie five minutes into it.  I was bored early and the scant run time of 80 minutes felt double that.

The film was desperately unfunny and the writing, dialogue and storyline was an inane as it comes… and predictable as well.  I considered a couple of times of leaving the movie, but I thought, if I can stick it through Holmes and Watson, I can make it through this one.

The film rides the one note joke about the phone being mean and swearing often throughout the movie.  The first couple of times it was worth a chuckle, but it grew old really fast.  And then, when the film implies (and not even subtly) that Jexi the A.I. caused a terrible injury to someone so Phil can be promoted, the film brushes it aside as if it never happened.

In my mind, Phil knew what had happened and that was when he should have looked into solutions to the phone problem, but he did not seem to care at all.

Michael Pena, who is a very funny actor, is a total mess here.  His character is such an over-the-top caricature it is ridiculous.  If it were trying to satirize a type of person, then they need to make this closer to someone who might actually exist.  For such a great actor, this performance was one of the year’s worst.

The film is trying to go for a message of how people become dependent on their phones, but it is, at best, surface level.  There is nothing deeper here and that message gets left behind several times.

I do like Alexandra Shipp, who, despite the crappiness of this script, looks like a star.  She is a lovely presence on the screen, but she cannot save the garbage that she is thrust into by the writers.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.  One of the worst of the year.

0.9 stars

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

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I was a late arrival to Breaking Bad, and even then, I almost gave up on it.  As I was binging the series, I got to the plane crash part and I nearly stopped watching.  I really hated that section of the series.  However, I am so glad I did not because right after that misstep, the show became unbelievably great.

Still, I have only ever watched the series once, and it is not one where I know every little detail (sans LOST) so the new film El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie which debuted on Netflix on October 11 did not strike me as much as it would some other Breaking Bad fanatics.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still very good.

The story picks up for Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) moments after the ending of the series finale of Breaking Bad.  Pinkman had just escaped and now he is on the run, avoiding the police for his role in the meth empire with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and trying to come to grips with his past.

With that past part, there are a lot of flashbacks involved in this original story, written by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan.  There are plenty of call backs in the flashbacks to the series and, since I am not necessarily a Breaking Bad aficionado, I may not have gotten the most out of those scenes.

Yet, Aaron Paul is absolutely tremendous as Pinkman, the troubled young man desperate to find a future for himself.  Paul, a multiple time Emmy winner, may have given his best performance ever in El Camino.

This film is truly a character piece encircling the life of Jesse Pinkman and providing satisfying closure to the character’s arc as well as the series’ run.  This tells the story that fans of the finale felt was missing.  Knowing what happened to Jesse may not have been necessary for the series, but the wrap up gives respect to Jesse and his legion of fans.

I’m not sure if the movie is watchable if you are not a Breaking Bad fan, but, if you are not a Breaking Bad fan, then may I suggest a series binge?  It is certainly worth the time.  Then come to see El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie for the whipped cream on the top of the sundae.

4 stars 

The Addams Family (2019)

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With full disclosure, I fell asleep during the third act and missed the ending of this movie.  Not necessarily a great sign for my thoughts on the new animated version of the old TV show, The Addams Family.

So I am going to proceed with this review without having any idea how the film turned out.

Of course, I could probably guess and not be too far off.  This film was less than groundbreaking.

The Addams family moved into a new neighborhood, into an old, abandoned asylum with ghosts and living trees.  Just what they were looking for.  Then, a woman from a TV home repair show wanted to “fix” their home so their presence did not affect the selling of other houses in the area. Meanwhile there were a bunch of other side stories that ranged from inane to mildly entertaining.

Although there is a great cast of voice actors here- Charlize Theron, Oscar Isaac, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Bette Midler, Nick Kroll, Allison Janney and Conrad Vernon, some of the voices felt miscast.  In particular, Finn Wolfhard, who I love, just sounded wrong as Pugsley.  Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron were solid as Gomez and Morticia though.

The plot was slow and dull.  It had several storylines that were not what I had hoped to see.  The aforementioned home repair show featuring the film’s main villain, Margaux Needler, is the worst of the bunch, which is saying something since the whole Pugsley-has-to-do-Addams-family-fencing-dance to become a man storyline was cringe-worthy.  The only storyline that was, at all interesting, was Wednesday and trip to middle school.

However, my favorite part is clearly Lurch.  This character is the break out character of the film,  with his organ playing being the highlight.

There were a few gags that drew a giggle out of me, but it became pretty clear that this film was not targeting me.  It was made for the little kids.  Problem was that I am unsure if it is exciting enough for the short attention spans of children.  I have a feeling The Addams Family will bore the kiddos rather quickly.

There are some dark moments in the film, but no where near the recent live action films, which are both considerably better than this.  The characters are introduced to the new audience, but I am not sure that we learned enough about them to care.

I wish this were a better film.  It is not as bad as some, but it could have been much better.

2.6 stars

 

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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We are diving way back to the late 1960s for our next October Horror Binge as one of the iconic films, Rosemary’s Baby, was released.  Rosemary’s Baby is a psychological thriller/horror film directed by the infamous Roman Polanski featuring Mia Farrow as Rosemary, a young woman whose pregnancy may be more than it seems.

Rosemary and Guy moved into a new apartment despite the fact that their friend Hutch attempted to dissuade them from taking it considering the questionable past of the building.  Their neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet, immediately thrust themselves into the couple’s lives.  When Rosemary and Guy decided to have a baby, the Castvets got involved even more with special drinks and foods.

On the night when Rosemary is planning to be impregnated, she was drugged and raped by a demonic force.  She became pregnant.

When Rosemary believed , she became desperate to try and find out the truth.

The film was very tense.  Even though we saw the rape scene, the film built it as if Rosemary was paranoid and crazy.  There was always a slight doubt.

The movie is creepy as heck and the whole Satanic stuff works in the horror genre.  This is more subtle than you think and developed a really thrill ride that makes you desperate to cheer for Mia Farrow.

It is one of the great horror movies of all time.

vintage

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The Shining (1980)

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Next up on the October Horror Binge is one of the great horror movies of all time in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  The Shining is based on a Steven King book, however, King was not a fan of the adaptation of this film, which is odd considering how amazing the film is.  The sequel to this movie/book, Doctor Sleep will be released later this year.

Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson), a former teacher and current writer, moved his family, wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd), to the Outlook Hotel where they are hired to take care of the hotel during the winter when it was shut down.  The isolation and frustration begins to get to Jack as he struggled to write.

Danny has a mental power known as The Shining.  Scatman Crothers played the hotel’s chef who reveals to Danny that he too has the gift.  However, Danny begins seeing flashes that suggest that there is more to the Outlook Hotel than has been revealed.

The Shining does a masterful job of creating moods.  The Outlook is a wonderful setting that not only feels massive and extensive, but also isolating and claustrophobic.  One could understand how someone could go mad from the loneliness.  Although there are some implications that Jack may not have been the ideal husband/father even before the move to the Outlook.

Jack Nicholson is tremendous as Jack Torrence and his dynamic with Shelley Duvall is creepy.  When Jack starts going off-kilter, he is scary as can be.  While the ghost tale parts of The Shining are fine, they are meant to give reason for the breakdown.  Yet, I do not think I need anything supernatural to explain why Jack flipped out.

There are some truly disturbing imagery in The Shining and the entire “redrum” stuff is what nightmares are made of.

The Shining is frightening and filled with tension.  You are never quite sure what is going to happen and that is a great thing.  This is one of the best films in the genre.

paragon

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

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The first Saturday evening in October 2019 and I am continuing the October Horror Binge that I started last week while the calendar still said September.   Now that it is officially the All Hallow’s Eve month, we can resume watching those scary stories from the big screen.

Last week I had watched, for the first time, Freddy Krueger’s debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street.  This week, I skipped over #2 and went right for what is, arguably, the best film of the franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

I was a fan of the title song by Dokken, and, I have a slight memory of renting the VHS when I was younger.  This came out the year I graduated from high school and I was not a slasher film fan, but I remember renting it.  However, as I watched the film tonight, there was little about it that I remembered so it is possible that I did not pay too close of attention to the movie when I watched it back in the late 1980s.

I watched it closer tonight and I enjoyed it much more than the first time.  It was fun with the return of Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) from the first film.  There is a group of new young characters, led by a young Patricia Arquette.  Some of the acting was questionable, but for a slasher movie, they were fine.

Freddy Krueger continues to be the man when it comes to creative kills and you can see why he became an icon in the world of horror.  I’m not sure if I am going to watch any of the other Nightmares, but Dream Warriors is great.

classic

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Joker

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Here comes yet another divisive comic book movie from DC.  There have been many cries of controversy with Todd Phillip’s rendition of Joker, with people saying that this is a “dangerous” movie and that this is a bad time in our nation’s history for a movie like this to be released.  There are people who are concerned about who maybe inspired by a Joker movie to do terrible travesties.

I do not subscribe to those ideas as I am not one to ever blame the art or the artist for what someone may interpret from it.  The biggest question, for me, is … Is the Joker a good movie?  I had heard a mixed bag from a many of the critics so I really had no idea where it would fall for me.  Then, before I was heading into the theater, I ran into a co-worker who told me that they hated the movie.  I took my seat without any idea about what I was going to see.

And I loved this movie.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) was a sad and damaged individual who was trying to get by in life with his job as a rental clown, trips to his therapist while taking care of his mother Penny (Frances Conroy).  It is clear from scene one that this man has a struggle with mental illness and that he is only hanging on by a thread.

It seems that one of the things that he is inflicted with is a laugh that he cannot control and that can come at the most inopportune times, particularly times of high levels of stress.

Arthur’s great wish is to become a stand-up comedian and he does what he can to make that dream a reality.   Unfortunately,  it appears that he is simply not that funny.  So one day on a train moving through Gotham City, Arthur kills three men with a gun given to him by a co-worker and events begin to spiral out of control.

Joker is a violent movie, but it is not anywhere near as violent as I had thought it would be.  Honestly, with the uproar over the social media concerns, I imagined that Joker would be much more violent and graphic.  There have been plenty of other movies more violent than Joker but those movies did not receive the scrutiny that Joker has.

The film is an in-depth character study of a man who is declining into madness and the world around him that apparently does not care.  The mental illness theme in this film comes right out of the headlines today and is probably the main reason people are uneasy over Joker.  The film does show that Joker takes those final steps into madness when he loses the ability to go to his therapist because of budget cuts.  The idea of aid for the mentally ill is vital to the story of Arthur Fleck.

As every review states, Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant as Arthur Fleck.  He is able to show you the side of this character that deserves pity and relatability without divorcing you from the fact that this is a dangerous psychopath that should not be pitied.  And at times you feel uncomfortable and maybe even a little disgusted when you can understand and relate to him.

The movie is definitely a slow burn and difficult to watch because it makes you as an audience member uncomfortable with yourself.  It does not give you a typical protagonist to cheer for and it does not provide you with the happy ever after that most movies do.  That probably shocked some people, but what do you expect when you are going to an R rated Joker movie?  Unicorns and flowers?

Watching Phoenix descend into the darkness was fascinating and seeing him transform into the Joker was amazing.  There are plenty of perfect “Joker” moments in the movie so when audiences were being warned that this was not the Joker they were used to, I think that was over exaggerating.  This was the Joker that I knew.

There are certainly many moments or scenes that borrow from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or King of Comedy and the feel is even more emphasized when we see Robert DeNiro playing late night TV host Murray Franklin, however, these moments felt more like an homage to those films rather than a theft of them.

Joker is disturbing, but in all the best ways.  One of the more disturbing aspects of Joker is the mother-son relationship with Arthur and Penny.  Frances Conroy is wonderfully off-kilter in this movie playing the mother of the eventual clown prince of crime.  There is an inclusion of Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullin) which I am not sure was needed.  I think this was used simply to keep the connection to Batman, despite the Caped Crusader not being in this movie.  There is a strange thing that happens at one point that makes you question the decision making process of Todd Phillips, but it pays off later in the film.  There are many moments like that so I suggest you do not get yourself into a Nerd Rage before the film ends.  Give it a chance before you hate on it.

Joker does feel like it goes maybe one scene too far at the end.  Otherwise, I feel that they conclusion of this movie is very powerful and speaks directly to the divide between the classes, as well as the fate of mentally ill people in today;s world.  The final bloody image with the Joker is perfect and puts an appropriate period on the end of the sentence.  The extra add on feels like something that could have been dropped.  It felt almost like a post credit scene that was not after the credits and tacked on at the end.

I was not sure how I was going to react to Joker.  I have always loved the character, but the negativity that I have heard made me doubt how I might react.  However, I was completely enthralled with this movie and, despite some of the smaller faults, is one of my favorite films of the year.

4.9 stars

 

Judy

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We have had a lot of biopics about music icons recently.  From Freddie Mercury to Elton John, the music industry has been a hotbed of movie subjects.

Add one more to the list with the film based on the last year of the life of Dorothy Gale herself, Judy Garland.

In an attempt to get money to provide a more secure life for her children, Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) accepted a tour of London despite her own struggles with alcohol and medication as well as her own tragic past.

Renee Zellweger is the absolute best thing about Judy. Her performance is transformative and powerful.  I believe she has to be considered the front runner, if not the lock, for the Academy Award for Best Actress from this performance.  She brings such an emotional depth to the character, from the lows of her addictions to the highs of her performances.

The character of Judy Garland is not shown through rose-colored glasses either.  We see the bad choices and the mistakes that she makes and the consequences of those actions.  One of the stronger aspects are the series of flashbacks back to the Dorothy-aged Judy (Darci Shaw) which detail the downright abuse heaped on Judy by the movie studio and her handlers who were more concerned with the image of Judy than the actual person.  There were some shocking instances of cruelty and potentially even abuse by those in power over the young girl that you understand why Judy grew up to be such a mess.

The film had a huge tragic feel to it for much of the run time.  The life that the young girl had to live through to the challenges facing the older version who was just looking for a way to be a mother to her children were heartbreaking.  Renee Zellweger was able to remain this woman riddled with poor choices without losing the connection to the audience.  Even when her own worst behavior was her undoing, you could relate to the pain and the challenges faced by the songstress.

One of the best scenes of the film included a gay couple who had waited after a show and met Judy.  Judy was so lonely that she invited them out to dinner and wound up spending an evening with them.  It was such a lovely, emotional scene that it truly helped to humanize Judy Garland.  It also effective when the couple returns later in the film.

Speaking of later in the film, the final part of the movie was just epic.  I loved how they ended the movie and I found myself with tears in my eyes from the power of the moment.  It was both sad and tragic, while at the same time uplifting and hopeful.  It ended with such a strong couple of scenes that any other flaws that might have been in the film were brushed away.

The film may have been a slow developing one, but I was riveted the entire time.  Renee Zellweger was special in her performance and the ending scene was one of the most emotional times of the year.  Judy is a terrific biopic.

4.75 stars

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

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Continuing to reach for October, our October Horror Binge continued today with the fictionalized film about the making of a real film.  The silent film classic Nosferatu is the film that is being used as the historical part of this historical fiction.  Shadow of the Vampire is the fictionalized version asking the question, “What if director F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich) were to use a real vampire as the lead role in his movie?”

Willem Dafoe plays Max Schreck, a real vampire playing the role of Count Orlok.  The cast and crew is told that Schreck is the consummate “method actor” and will only be seen at night and will always stay in character.   Little does the crew know that Murnau had made a deal with the vampire to give him actress Greta Schröder (Catherine McCormack) to feed upon when they were finished.  Murnau insisted that Schreck leave his crew alone and not hurt them, which was a promise that Max could not keep.

There is a lot of humor in the film.  Willem Dafoe gives a remarkable performance as Max and John Malkovich is creepy and cold, wanting only what he wants.  The fact that some people are hurt or in danger in his efforts to create the most realistic vampire movie ever really does not alter his choices.  It makes one wonder exactly which of these men were the monster.

The film is shot beautifully, taking many of the techniques of silent movies, which Nosferatu was, into effect.  The idea behind this is very creative and original.

Defoe was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in this movie.  His performance alone is good enough to watch the movie, but there is much more here than just one performance.

vintage

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