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Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

This film documents the long and successful career of Linda Ronstadt, whose career was cut short in the late 2000s when she came down with Parkinson’s disease and lost the ability to control her voice. I loved the movie. I was a fan from the first time I remember hearing “You’re No Good”. I loved that she could sing and make a song her own in nearly every genre; the film takes us through her explorations of rock and folk-rock, country, new wave, jazz, and classical using concert footage and interviews with the musicians with whom she sang. One of …

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Judy

At the age of 46, and one year before she died, Judy Garland \agrees to do a concert tour in London as a way to raise money to provide a stable home for her children, Lorna and Joey. The film uses the concert tour and flashbacks to tell the story of her last big tour. Renee Zellweger does a fabulous job of capturing the mannerisms of Garland. I am not quite old enough to know Garland well, beyond my memories of seeing her on television and hearing her songs. But Zellweger captures Judy Garland’s essence and mannerisms incredibly well, and …

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Hustlers

The story, inspired by true events, concerns Destiny (Constance Wu), a woman who needs money and secures a job dancing in a strip club. There, she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who takes her under her wing and mentors her. They are working in New York City just before the financial markets crashed, when money flowed through Wall Street and into the NYC party scene. After the crash, they parted ways and later reunited, creating a scheme to drug rich men and get them to rack up their credit cards. The premise itself is interesting – it is kind of a …

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When They See Us (Netflix Mini-Series)

In 1989, 5 young African American and Latino boys, ages 14-16, were accused of beating and raping a white jogger in Central Park New York. After serving between 6 and 13 years in prison, they were exonerated after a fellow prisoner serving time with one of the five confessed to the crime.  In this Netflix mini-series, Ana DuVernay provides a perfect complement to the Sarah Burns documentary Central Park Five from 2012; DuVernay presents the story completely from the viewpoint of the 5 teenagers. She takes us up close and personal into what it was like for these boys to …

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Rocketman

Taron Egerton plays Elton John in this very interesting and unusually told biopic of John’s life. While the film starts out in a rather conventional narrative away – we first see Elton John checking himself into a rehab facility wherein he starts recounting various parts of his life – it becomes quickly clear that this will be a different kind of life story. The film is really a musical; at several points, it feels like you are watching a stage play. There is one number in which Edgerton first appears as the teenage Elton John that is particularly well done). …

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The Upside

In this remake of the French film Intouchables (2012), Phil (Bryan Cranston) is a millionaire who was in an accident that left him a quadriplegic. During his search for a caretaker, Dell (Kevin Hart) barges into an interview being overseen by Phil’s business manager Yvonne (Nicole Kidman); he really doesn’t want the job, he just needs a signature to prove he is looking for work. Phil decides to hire Dell, which is the beginning of their friendship. This is based on the true story of a friendship of two very different men with different backgrounds. The film is okay; the …

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Vice

This film explores Dick Cheney’s rise from his heavy partying and fighting days post-college to his tenure as vice president to President Bush. Actually, it is a film about Dick and Lynne Cheney – his wife seems to have played a significant role in his ascent to power. I had some misgivings on seeing the film – the last thing I wanted to watch was a story about Dick Cheney. I would have been happy to have him retired from my memory. The film overall is a bit of a mess. I found it rather tedious in places, and it …

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Destroyer

Nicole Kidman plays Erin Bell, an LA Police Department cop who was assigned to undercover to a gang in the California desert. Based on a true story, the assignment ended badly. The movie tells the story, mostly in flashback, of the assignment of her and Chris (played by Sebastian Stan) and its impact on Erin’s present-day life. The story is interesting, and is rather similar to other undercover stories, like Drugstore Cowboy. While I enjoyed the movie, I did not think it was great. The screenplay is very “loose” in that there are so many aspects of the story that …

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At Eternity’s Gate

Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh in the later and more prolific years of his life. Julian Schnabel, who has brilliantly featured the lives of artists in previous films, does an amazing job of helping us to imagine what it would have been like to be inside the mind of Van Gogh during periods of his life that were incredibly dark and tormented. Dafoe gives a brilliant, award-worthy performance that may be the best of his career. He looks like van Gogh, and it is amazing to see the character that Dafoe commands through is eyes and facial expressions. Schnabel …

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The Green Book

Don Shirley (Mahershela Ali) was a brilliant pianist who headed the Don Shirley Trio. In 1961, he decides to take his band into the deep South and hires Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortenson), a bouncer, to drive him. Shirley had hoped that his concert tour would help change the racist practices. “Inspired by true events”, the movie tells the story of the friendship that develops between Shirley and Vallelonga. There has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding the film, given that the director admittedly did not consult with Shirley’s family to verify the events portrayed in the story (and the …

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