Renée Zellweger is Judy, Garland that is, in Rupert Goold’s downbeat biopic of the singer playing a series of sold-out concerts in London in 1968 broke, addicted and in a hard spot. Garland’s cruel, ignorant mistreatment by MGM mogul Louis B Mayer is given glancing attention – the uppers so she could work 18 hours a day on films like The Wizard of Oz and downers to make her sleep at will, the limitations Mayer imposed on her desire to live like a normal girl, the systemic destruction of her spirit the sad centre of the story. Now grown and divorcing her husband Sid Luft and battling for custody of her two youngest children, Garland’s agrees to work overseas for a big lifesaving payday. It’s painful to see how broken she is, as she misses curtains, makes bad, career-killing decisions and latches on to yet another man keen to make a fortune from her. It’s dreary, unleavened by humour or joy or ordinary moments of pleasure of being alive with that talent, tough stuff. However, Zellweger is phenomenal in her performance and singing. She may not have Garland’s musicality but the raw emotion in her maturing voice and extraordinary lung power is truly Garland-like. Co-stars Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Michael Gambon and Rufus Sewell.
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Just two nights to see the music doc Roger Waters Us + Them October 2 and October 5, and if you’re a Pink Floyd fan, you’ll be there.
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Sean Evans’ eye-popping, state-of-the-art musical odyssey highlights the band’s 2017 Amsterdam concert highlighting classic Floyd hits The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Animals, Wish You Were Here and music from Waters’ most recent album Is This the Life We Really Want Seems the time is right as a “creatively pioneering film that inspires with its powerful music and message of human rights, liberty and love.” Amen to that. See it here.
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Alejandro Landes’ Monos concerns a group of eight teenaged “soldiers” living in the jungles of Columbia. They have nothing, no education, conveniences, opportunities or guidance, but they do have a hostage, an American doctor (Julianne Nicholson) a potentially big payday. The heavily armed kids with childish pop culture names like Rambo, Smurf, Bigfoot, Wolf and Boom-Boom are allegedly under the thumb of a guerilla leader but he’s rarely around. They create their own universe of violence, threat, sex, and playing at war until hostage “Doctora” escapes under the guard of an armed boy who might be nine years old. Doctora escapes a second time and then a third, and Rambo escapes to her home only to have the group follow. Each of the characters is unhappy with this life, but do what they’re told on pain of torture. A military attack disperses them and plants seeds of discord, while Hannah Montana star (!) Moises Arias uses fear to hang on to his “power”. Inventive cinematography and a haunting symphonic soundscape give it unusually dreamlike life, bizarre and hallucinatory, fractured frames, a body drowning shot from underneath, a dying cow expires before us. This is mind-bending stuff about children who live outside society with nothing but machine guns strapped to their backs.
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Psychopath alert!! Just how many can Ryan Murphy cram into his new Netflix series The Politician? Plenty is how many. Let’s start with one of TV’s most obnoxious characters, Ben Platt’s Payton Hobart, an ambitious young man adopted into a family of wealth and privilege with Gwyneth Paltrow as his extremely well dressed if oddly vacant mother. Payton’s determined to become President of the USA and to that end vows to win his school election to become President of the student body. He’s an awful, soulless person threatened by the gifted River who lives with his family and willing to do anything especially if it’s out of bounds to crush the competition. Then River runs against him. Their relationship is fraught to begin with and Payton’s evil genius takes him over; he needs someone disabled as a running mate, and he picks a teen girl apparently suffering from cancer. Her wicked grandmother (Jessica Lange) eggs them on. A sudden tragedy befalls Payton and everything is changed, except the fire in his belly to be president. Oh, and he sings beautifully! Can’t tell you more, except to say the series is satirical, sly and has a black heart. It’s also funny and provocative and plenty addictive. The series features a wealth of diverse characters some differently abed, inducing the series’ one-man Greek chorus and an interesting gal called Sky Lady. Juicy, musical, weird and wonderfully nutty.
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Iconoclast satirist and so-called “media terrorist” Chris Morris checks into Miami to take part in the war with radical Islamists in The Day Shall Come. An impoverished street preacher revolutionary Moses (Marchánt Davis) is offered major cash by a terrorist cell to take down the “cranes” (read: US government) but there are several flies in the ointment – the cell is the US government looking to score points by setting up and arresting Moses. And he’s literally too good to be bad. Anna Kendrick is the FBI operative who’s been watching his every move via electronic surveillance and makes it her business to lock him up. One problem, he’s not playing. Moses has a demanding wife who does his thinking for him, they’re about to be evicted and he needs the money for that and for his revolution. But he also has principles even if he has only about six followers and he’s easily distracted. Heavy on the wisecracks and political social irony and loaded zingers “Jihad has no off-switch”, “Don’t start a race war. We’ll lose”. “Syria’s real estate deals are amazing right now”. Imaginative, sly, weird, searing at times, but overplayed and dense, and not “ha ha” as much as “oh, right”. On DVD and VOD.
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BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI