This week’s big new releases see two very different cinematic icons duking it out for box office glory – and maybe a golden statuette or two further down the line.
Renée Zellweger breathes new life into a Hollywood legend in Judy, while Batman’s nemesis takes centre stage in Joker – but how will Joaquin Phoenix compare to the likes of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger?
Plus: all aboard, all aboard, a-woah-ho! Ex-KLF genius Bill Drummond is live at City Screen!
Renée Zellweger plays one of Hollywood’s most legendary stars in this drama centred around Judy Garland’s sell-out run of shows at London’s Talk of the Town nightclub in 1968.
30 years on from her star-making role in The Wizard of Oz, Garland is exhausted by the ravages of a lifetime in the entertainment industry when she agrees to do the shows – a decision prompted by financial necessity, which causes her further heartache by taking her away from her three children.
The film follows Garland as she prepares for the shows whilst dealing with all manner of backstage drama, from battles with management to visits from her third ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell) – plus the potential for a new romance with cocktail waiter Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock).
Zellweger has been picking up plenty of praise for her portrayal, which sees her singing some of Garland’s most famous tunes herself – including, of course, Over the Rainbow, of which an impressed Variety declared, “Rarely since its original “Wizard of Oz” incarnation has the old chestnut been so stirringly used on screen”.
Few could have expected, at the start of this year, that a superhero movie by the director of The Hangover would go on to scoop the top prize at the prestigious Venice Film Festival.
But that, of course, is just what director Todd Phillips’ take on DC Comics’ most famous super-villain did last month – with talk of Oscar glory following swiftly after.
It certainly seems a vindication of Phillips’ intention in making the movie, which was to create a 1970s-style ‘New Hollywood’ character study (Taxi Driver being a key reference point) which would have appeal beyond the arthouse crowd who usually turn out for such fare – and what better way to do that than to deliver it in one of the most popular genres of today, the comic book movie?
Conceived as a completely stand-alone film, the 1980s-set story follows Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix, in a highly acclaimed performance), a troubled, solitary outcast with a day job as a clown, who lives with his frail, elderly mother and has ambitions of becoming a stand-up comic.
His slow spiral towards madness will lead to his rebirth as Gotham City’s notorious criminal mastermind…
If I could be transported, Being John Malkovich-style, into the mind of any famous person, I might well choose Bill Drummond.
The ex-KLF man may perhaps still be best known for burning a million quid back in 1994, but over the years he’s forged a delightfully idiosyncratic career as an artist, engaged in projects that range from the wilfully Quixotic (taking an icon of Elvis to the North Pole to leak peace, love and happiness out across the world) to the really rather lovely (Soup Line, which saw Drummond offer to make soup for anyone living on a line he drew across a map of the UK).
You can catch the man himself at City Screen on Friday 4th, where a documentary about his current project, Best Before Death, will be bookended by a live performance of his play White Saviour Complex, starring Drummond and Scottish actor Tam Dean Burn.
After that, Drummond will apparently be found selling copies of the play from the nearest bus shelter. And why not?
A quick glance at the web is proof that sadly, the Elvis icon plan didn’t work out – but you can at least commune with the spirit of the King in Elvis Unleashed (Vue, City Screen, Mon 7th), a new look at the singer’s legendary 1968 Comeback Special complete with unseen outtakes and new interviews with famous fans.
Also on the comeback trail this week are Metallica, whose S&M2 gig – celebrating 20 years since the release of their 1999 orchestral album – streams live to Vue and Everyman on Weds 9th.
Meanwhile, Billy Connolly hits the road one last time in The Sex Life of Bandages – a recording of his final stand-up tour in 2015, accompanied by an exclusive new interview. It shows at all three York cinemas on Thurs 8th.
More traditional cinematic fare can be found in the form of two golden oldies, both showing on Sun 6th – Gloria Swanson is ready for her close-up in Billy Wilder’s 1950 film noir classic Sunset Boulevard at City Screen, while over at Vue, Bill Murray and co. fire up the proton packs again in Ghostbusters.
And finally, on Weds 9th City Screen have a preview of intriguing-sounding Colombian drama Monos, a tale of child soldiers partly inspired by The Lord of the Flies, and almost certainly the only film you will see this week whose dramatis personae include a conscripted milk cow.