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Margot flies high and Renée goes over the rainbow: James King's Week in Movies

It's James King's Week in Movies...

James King

We've reached the final few days of film awards season and my favourite moment at the BAFTAs this year - aside from spotting Joaquin Phoenix accidentally curtsy to Prince William - had to be the Best Picture win for heart-stopping war epic 1917. Lead actor George McKay has been threatening to hit big for several years and now he's finally made it. A James Bond of the future, maybe? In between the backslapping though, I still managed to pick out some movie highlights for you to check out this week. One stars Hollywood's current queen, the other an ‘A' lister on the comeback trail. Both deliver the goods. Enjoy!

ON THE BIG SCREEN

Back in 2016 the marvellous Margot Robbie stole the show from under Will Smith's nose in the patchy comic book flick Suicide Squad so it's no surprise that she's back as the main star in the far superior sequel BIRDS OF PREY. As Harley Quinn - ex-girlfriend of The Joker - she's mad, bad and dangerous to know but her tattooed craziness is offset by a Margot's knowing winks and pearly whites - the greatest grin since Jack Nicholson's Joker. It's what makes BIRDS OF PREY so much fun. Unlike its predecessor, it doesn't take itself too seriously.

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The plot follows Harley and her band of female cohorts as they fight Gotham City gangster Roman Sionis (a wonderfully hammy Ewan McGregor), the mood of the film rowdy and raucous, the plot taking a little while to find its flow. But once it does it's anything goes: fireworks and fairgrounds, rock ‘n' roll and rollerskates - all wrapped in a day-glo shell of girl power and riotous kung-fu.

 

Margot's Harley is like Baby Spice being directed by Quentin Tarantino; a wild mix of Madonna's blonde ambition and Uma Thurman's Kill Bill kicks. It's no mean feat to turn such a mad mash-up into one of modern cinema's most endearingly odd anti-heroes. 

BIRDS OF PREY [15] is at cinemas now

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ON THE SMALL SCREEN

Hollywood loves a comeback and the biggest of the last year has to be the ‘Renée-saince' of Renée Zellweger, thanks in no small part to her career-best turn as Judy Garland in JUDY. Telling the story of the late, great showgirl and her time in sixties London just months before she died, JUDY shows two sides to Garland - the tough, showbiz exterior of a former child star ruthlessly trained to behave a certain way and, on the other hand, someone completely helpless.

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It's the ideal role for Renée. After all, she seems to inhabit those extremes herself - gutsy yet fragile, brassy yet quiet. And whilst Garland's fabulously camp live shows are captured with maximum pizazz, it's the little moments that really wow, exposing off-duty Judy as an entirely different person to her stage act (in short: she was a bundle of nerves).

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A supporting cast including Jessie Buckley and Rufus Sewell is spot-on but make no mistake: this is the Renée show. And just as Judy herself was no stranger to comebacks, Renée's clearly loving this return to the limelight, belting out her own vocals on iconic songs such as ‘Over the Rainbow' with relish. All the awards she's won for the role (and she's won most of them) make complete sense. Whilst she was great as Miss Jones, she's even better as Miss Judy.

JUDY [12] is available now on iTunes and Amazon Prime plus DVD and Blu-ray

COMING SOON

Sharon Horgan singing Cyndi Lauper? What's not to love? MILITARY WIVES is based on the true story of the global choir phenomenon and features the peerless Kristin Scott-Thomas opposite Sharon and co-stars Greg Wise and Amy James-Kelly. The result is the feel-good film of the year: big songs, big performances and big emotions. Hopefully that will make it a big hit too (and it's released just in time for Mothering Sunday).

MILITARY WIVES [12] is out in the UK on March 6th

 

James King is a writer and broadcaster who presents on BBC Radio 2. He worked for many years as the resident film critic at BBC Radio 1 and hosted The Movie Show on ITV2.