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Judy

Fifty years after her death, performer Judy Garland is still revered. Starring as Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and other films such as ‘A Star is Born’, her talents remain dazzling. Her remarkable singing prowess and natural charisma made her a legion of fans. Her life was filled with triumph, tragedy and tears – perfect Hollywood fodder. A biopic is a given with ‘Judy’ touching all the expected bases with glittering aplomb.

Arriving in London for a series of concerts in 1969, singer and actress Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) should be in her prime. Unfortunately years of substance abuse, addiction and failed marriages have taken their toll. Reflecting over her life before the first show, Judy explores how she came this far as the twilight of her career nears its end.

‘Judy’ is the type of movie that would write itself as it has all the ingredients for a classic melodrama. It has this in spades with ‘Judy’ based on a celebrated Broadway play. Rupert Goold’s skillful direction ensures we get underneath her public persona to see how she came to be so damaged. Her relationships and other personal dramas are effectively highlighted without taking away from Garland’s incredible talents.

Incredible also is Zellweger’s performance. She conveys Judy’s worn out visage extremely well and gives her best performance to date. You truly believe you are seeing the legend on stage giving every ounce of energy to her audience. The rest of the cast and period setting are all top notch with the songs still packing emotion.

Fans of Garland’s work should be pleased with ‘Judy’. A consistently arresting drama that stays with you, it adds gravitas to Garland’s mystique. It’s easy seeing why her legendary status remains with her impact still being felt generations later.

Rating out of 10: 8

Yesterday

There have been several films based around Beatles tunes. Initial ones featuring the ‘Fab Four’ remain classics with others falling by the wayside. The most notorious example was the 1978 ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ film featuring the Bee Gees jumping on trampolines. Sadly no physical gymnastics are present in ‘Yesterday’, which would have made it infinitely more watchable. Directed by the usually talented Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis, ‘Yesterday’ is a saccharine-filled ode to the 60’s chart-topping mop-toppers.

Struggling singer-songwriter Jack (Himesh Patel) is desperate to hit the big time. One of his few supporters is best friend Ellie (Lily James). When Jack is injured during a mysterious blackout, his fortune is about to turn. Waking up to a world where no one remembers the Beatles, Jack performs their songs to global fame. All this comes at a cost to his friendship with Ellie with Jack wondering if success is worth losing her forever.

‘Yesterday’ is like a sugar coated episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ extended to nearly two hours. Despite having written ‘Blackadder’ among other TV series, British writer Richard Curtis seems content to churn out sentimental feel-good fluff like ‘Yesterday’. Whilst the premise is amusing, it’s stretched too far with the romance between Jack and Ellie feeling forced. There’s no chemistry between the leads although both performers do a fine job generally. Since this doesn’t work, the film’s main focus swiftly falls by the wayside.

Danny Boyle directing talents are wasted on ‘Yesterday’. His flair for bringing energy and pace to stories is missing with each scene shot like any old ordinary TV sit-com. As expected the Beatles tunes stand out and aren’t washed out by the bland script. It may prompt viewers to seek out their work although they aren’t supported by a strong story.

‘Yesterday’ is the type of movie you’d expect from someone who wrote ‘Love Actually’ and ‘The Boat that Rocked’. Safe, insipid and uninspiring, the creaky plot lethargically wheezes its way to a predictable finale. Beatles completists will probably see it with future films featuring their songs as certain as the enduring devotion of their fans.

Rating out of 10: 4