Queen & Slim
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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"Escape to Athena," at times, feels like an excuse for an all-star cast of recognizable actors to go on vacation to a Greek Island for a few months to make a movie. The first hour of the film drags as the cast plots its espionage whenever they feel like it. The rest of the time, they covort within the walls of a Stalag as if it were more of a country club than a prison.
Roger Moore is stiff as a board as an Ally friendly German commandant. He also speaks with one of the worst German accents ever. Later in the film, once the action finally commences, he becomes more James Bondish, which is what we expect of him anyway. David Niven is also stiff as a board and shows little humor...or anger...or anything more than chirpy politeness. Sonny Bono has perhaps 10 or so short lines...sometimes with an Italian accent...most of the time without. Claudia Cardinale has little to do except dance and look beautiful with a weapon in her hand. Robert Roundtree's only character trait is that he knows an amateur magic act. Elliott Gould hams while delivering a few good lines amid a lot of unfunny ones. Stefanie Powers provides more character and American cheesecake than Cardinale. Throughout this mess, Telly Savalas tries the hardest to keep the film moving...but even he appears bored at times.
By the time the second half of the film kicks into action, whatever plot that existed beforehand is not worth following. No suspense whatsoever...unless you think the A-Team had suspense. The highlight of the film is a genuinely funny cameo by a well-loved star and a motorcycle chase through the narrow streets of the Island of Rhodes. The lowpoint of the film is watching Sonny Bono lip synching opera in clown makeup that he wears for an ungodly amount of time. Movie ends with disco song. There! You've been warned!
While LAWMAN offers a lot of the same tried-and-true Western themes, characters and plot twists, it successfully fits these familiar pieces together to make a better-than-average Western. Make no mistake, it is a cold, cynical movie, thanks to Burt Lancaster's cold, heartless character. Fine performances all around. It also has many recognizable faces including Robert Ryan, Lee J. Cobb, Robert Duvall, Ralph Waite and John Hillerman. The final confrontation pays off with enough twists to make the movie worthwhile.
I never saw the first two John Wick movies and this movie didn't make me want to see them. But Parabellum is not a terrible film. Here are the pluses: Keanu Reeves has screen presence and has become a master at screen combat. His development as an action star is impressive to say the least. It also features many recognizable stars in smaller roles. Now for the minuses: the violence is extreme and over-the-top. In fact, some of the battles become boring because we have seen them already - over and over again. The movie is hard to follow because the script does not explain the overall arc of the story. Plus it is difficult to identify with any of the characters given that the graphic novel storyline is too removed from reality for anyone to really care about anyone in the story. Ultimately, folks who love cartoonish violence to be served fast and cruel will love this. Folks looking for something deeper should look elsewhere.
Clint Eastwood's THE MULE is a haunting, suspenseful drama starring the film legend himself. While the pacing is not as frantic as the action films of today, Clint's laidback style is still effective. Eastwood and Bradley Cooper are standouts. The rest of the cast (many of them veterans) are also solid.
Lucille Ball once credited Judy Garland as being the funniest female star she ever knew. Film critic Rex Reed also noted how razor sharp Garland's sense of humor was, both in her glory and lean years. In fact, Garland's sense of humor and singing pipes kept her in the limelight long after her looks (and finances) slid downhill. So where is Judy Garland's zany sense of humor and charm in Rupert Goold's biopic of her? Almost non-existent. JUDY's screenplay assumes that its audience knows about Garland's ups and downs...so it doesn't try to add complexities, insights nor revelations. Its ending also tries to manipulate the audience to tears in a contrived, predictable Hollywood way. This leads to a middling bopic that could have been better. Star Renée Zellweger, at times, nails Garland...other times, she nails Zellweger in CHICAGO. Nevertheless, she nobly carries the film and is the best part of JUDY. Finn Whitlock also hits the mark as Garland's last husband. I wish I could say the same for Jessie Buckley, who is given very little to do except stare longingly at Zelwegger's Garland. At times, I thought her longing stares hinted at a lesbian crush...at other times, I thought it might be a young woman with a mother complex. Either way, I wished Buckly's character had been developed further. I also wished that the film had spent a little more time showing 1960s Los Angeles before Garland whisked herself away to London. The visuals would have been more impactful. Lastly, JUDY's director and producers play it so smug and safe that I found myself wishing that the material had been handed to someone a little more gutsy like Quentin Tarantino. I wanted to know more about Garland -- like how did she get her never ending supply of barbituates? What exactly was her problem with the IRS? Who still talked to her? Liked her? I would have loved to have seen more flashbacks that filled in the holes of her life and career. Also don't be taken in by the film's promise to explore the "waning days" of Garland's life. This film almost exclusively deals with Garland's last stint as a nightclub performer in London, months before her death. Conclusion: If you love Judy Garland and/or Renée Zellweger, you will most likely enjoy this film for what it is: an homage to a 20th century icon. If you want to know the real Judy Garland, a large biography and discography will be more rewarding.