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Cats

A fellow reviewer said of ‘Cats’ – ‘you don’t watch ‘Cats’, you survive it’. That isn’t an unfair description of a film which quickly became one of the most notorious box office disasters of all time. Based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 musical, its 2019 cinematic incarnation was greeted with howls of derision. It’s not difficult seeing why with this colourful nightmare the opposite of what Webber was hoping to achieve with this feral cinematic feline giving real ones a bad name.

A tribe of cats called the Jellicles have to decide who will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and return with a new life. Among the clowder are Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), Macavity (Idris Elba) and Gus (Ian McKellen). All sing and dance their way to a better place with furs and claws flying in equal measure.

‘Cats’ provides definitive proof that not all successful stage shows make equally hit-making films. The theatrical medium is vastly different to movies which is a lesson ‘Cats’ spectacularly fails to learn. Whilst visually lavish, almost everything else is sub-par. Its biggest failing is that it takes itself so seriously when in fact it would have worked better as a high camp comedy. ‘Cats’ plays like a parody of Lloyd Webber’s over-blown productions with its reverential earnestness unintentionally amusing.

The all star cast also ensure ‘Cats’ quickly sinks. Despite the big names involved, very few can actually sing well with the out of tune delivery of signature songs truly tortuous. The CGI used for the cats only works intermittently with most of it sloppily executed. Few set pieces dazzle with ‘Cats’ is an endurance test few could pass.

‘Cats’ is generally as terrible as its recent reputation suggests. It’s a grand folly like other movie musicals like ‘Xanadu’ and ‘Can’t Stop the Music’. But even those were more entertaining than this kitty mis-fire with emptying the kitty litter tray a more enticing option.

Rating out of 10: 2

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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