Review: “WITHOUT REMORSE” (2021) Amazon Studios

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Based on the Jack Ryan universe created by spy novelist extraordinaire Tom Clancy, “WITHOUT REMORSE” focuses on one of the most popular characters in the saga: John Kelly aka the future John Clark, as he gets his own origin story here from writers Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, directed by Stefano Sollima.

The films opens with a big action soaked scene of a hostage rescue in Aleppo, Syria, with Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan,) as part of a Navy Seal team, on what is clearly supposed to be a easy in and out hostage rescue. But of course it doesn’t go as planned and the recourse of what happens here, ends up changing John Kelly’s life forever. Fast forward after the attack gone wrong, John finds himself back at home in Washington D.C. happily awaiting the birth of his first child with his wife Pam (Lauren London), when they are attacked, leaving him badly wounded, while Pam and his unborn child are killed.

The attack, by a team of Russian assassins is payback and now John wants revenge, but the bureaucratic response from the higher ups at the Department of Defense and CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), gives it a no go. In steps Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce), who seems willing to blur the lines somewhat given what John has gone through, and we have the greenlight for John to be part of the team to go in to this time capture ex-Spetznaz agent Victor Rykov (Brett Gelman), although not without some hesitancy from his Commander and friend Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). All the while, this has been more John seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife, but it seems while wanting to do so, he has uncovered what is truly at hand, a covert plot that threatens to engulf the United States and Russia in an all-out war. Of course, things go once again upside down and the rest of the film turns into more of a personal payback mission for John.

The film, which also already has a second part on the way ~ courtesy of a mid-credits scene – updates and changes drastically not only the origin of the character, but the original plot of the story as well, which ends up giving us the feeling like it’s been seen a thousand times before. Not only because he is a military man who seeks revenge for the murder of his family, but also because he rekindles that been there – done that – conflict between the United States and Russia. While the hunt for the Russians keeps throwing our hero into explosive situations, ultimately revealing who the real villain is (to no one’s surprise) is part of the predictability process that is so very well….predictable. It’s the kind of tedious thriller where you spot the villain instantaneously, and realize who the backstabber is without even trying to. The one high point of it all for those who follow this character in Clancy novels, is this is also the telling of how John Kelly became John Clark and it’s moments like that that give it the much needed elevation we all wanted. Sadly, it’s brief, but boy can it be taken from here and really have something special come out of it, well we will have to just wait and see, as the action was decent and well as the acting.

On it’s good side, Jordan is a born action star and if this film is a hit, and future scripts possibly revamped, it could be a major franchise. Jodie Turner-Smith does well enough and all this flack that a woman can’t be a SEAL is just silly. It has been great seeing Guy Pearce come back to the big screen as well, he played his part perfectly, and look forward to having more of him in the future. The true error in all this is the book would have been ideal as an 8 part mini series. There is so much to explore and it could have set up a whole Clark universe with new stories being set in the 80’s, 90’s and beyond, you can’t help but think. So. Much. Potential.

C-

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“WITHOUT REMORSE” is available on Amazon Prime Friday, April 30, 2021

REVIEW: “JUDY” (2019) Roadside Attractions

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While the focus of this movie is of course Judy Garland and primarily the last year of her life,  “JUDY” opens with a behind the scenes look of with a young Judy Garland (Darci Shaw) being berated by her publicist/handler and MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer. Not allowed to eat, not allowed to have friends, working 18 hour days and most notably, the start of her pill addiction that would eventually take her life.  While watching, you can’t help but wonder why these things were even allowed and social norms for the time. The studio system was set up as such, to where the only people in control of all the lives underneath them, were the studio heads themselves. A selfish group of old men whose true stories would only be revealed years later as their power was lost.

That being said “Judy” might well be one of the saddest movies of the year, while Rene Zellweger’s performance of this icon, might just be the best of the year.  This is a sparkling, yet honest look at the last year of Garland’s life, giving us a closer look at the legendary 1968 “Talk of the Town” London engagement, the promising effort for a physically and emotionally exhausted Judy Garland to reignite her fading career.  For her to capture one last moment on the ‘yellow brick road’ before her accidental overdose on drugs, which is depicted here with a surgeon’s accuracy.  The days are counted in despair over her addictions and most of all the separation from her children. Nothing much is pretty about her life, and most of it seems desperate.

There are a few notable problems with the film that while you understand not every single thing can be depicted, they could at least have given us, say a bit more of her already famous daughter Liza Minnelli, whom at the time depicted in this movie, was 23, making movies, and on a career trajectory that would result in an Oscar three years later. But here she only exists in a moment, at a random party Judy attends when she comes back from a short gig with her younger children and doesn’t have a home or hotel that will let her in. Only Garland’s two later children Lorna and Joey, fathered by Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell) are primarily shown to us. It’s also at this same party that Judy meets her last and youngest husband, Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock).  He shows up in London and before you can say Toto! they are married.  It seems Judy was always stuck with some type of handler whether it be a stage manager or a husband, there was always someone wanting to dictate her life’s moves to her. To push and pull her in all directions.

As noted, kids aren’t the only thing missing. There is a huge gap of nothing past her early days with Mickey Rooney and the 60’s, which actually included two Oscar nominations and a Grammy award for Album of the Year. Also a short-lived television show where she did a memorable duet with a then almost unknown, 21-year-old Barbara Streisand. Considering the range of celebrities she worked with, the opportunities for quality namedropping are limitless – but aside from Mickey Rooney, there’s a pronounced lack of showing us anything.  Well thank goodness for a subplot involving two gay fans and their evening with her. It’s endearing and the best way to show how she impacted those on the margins of society. The final scene when she sings Rainbow involves the gay duo and is hokey but effectively sentimental and lyrical like the song itself.

But don’t get me completely wrong, the film has heart, in matter of speaking it has in fact loads of it. The script, costumes and sets take the audience on a virtual trip back into the last days of the ultimate performer’s life. We meet a different Judy – and older one who has been dealt all of life’s blows, only to keep coming back again and again – because no matter what, she still had that voice. The drama is punctuated by songs, sung well by Zellweger, and by her Oscar-worthy performance which is remarkable as she captures every single nuance of Garland’s mannerisms and body movements, even the “hunchback” part that Louis B. Mayer used against her as a child when calling her his ‘little hunchback.  But, of course, her voice is not Garland’s.  That voice is what we will always remember and the little girl who made us so happy by clicking her heels twice and taking us somewhere over that rainbow.

What is made clear in this film is that Judy Garland is the definition of a tortured soul.  It is thoughtful and provocative in it’s telling of this trip portraying a life that was not lead down “The Yellow Brick Road” as we were once lead to believe. This movie is a very worthwhile look at the life of Judy Garland. See it for Judy, or see it for Renee, or see it for both … just see it.

Grade: B

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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, September 25, 2019 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Meetup

“JUDY” is out in theaters nationwide this Friday, September 27, 2019 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWING