Friday, July 21, 2017

"The Big Sick" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new rom-com "The Big Sick" as well as DVDs "Sleepless" and "A Cure for Wellness."  The Book of the Week is "Ten Restaurants that Changed America."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "The Last Laugh."]




The Big Sick

 

A Pakistani-American stand-up comic meets a non-Pakistani girl and they start a relationship, but as we all know, true love never runs smooth.

I am starting to think that I am an angry person because I rant so much.  Over the last couple of weeks, I ranted about how much I hate movie sequels and remakes, and in my review below of "Sleepless," I rant a bit about movies that use digital photography. 

Now I am going to rant about rom-coms that aren't funny.

What is the deal with comedies these days?  They are just not funny anymore.  I can count on one hand the number of comedies that have made me laugh.  Actually, not even that many.  Where are the Woody Allen's (his early films), John Candys and Peter Sellers of today, comic actors who could make you laugh just by looking at them?  Oh, I know we have Melissa McCarthy and Christopher Guest and some others, but in general, when I have watched a comedy in the last couple of years, I have been disappointed.  And romantic comedies?  Those have practically gone the way of the dinosaur.  Where are the "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "When Harry Met Sally" rom-coms of today?

Well, rant over.  I finally found one.

This film is delightful, romantic and funny, all of the traits that a successful rom-com should have.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a comic slogging away in small clubs in Chicago at night and working as an Uber driver during the day when he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a girl who "Woo hoos" during his set.  In a very cute meet-cute, Kumail explains that any kind of audience participation, even if it's positive, can be considered heckling and would throw a comic off his game. Emily asks him: "So if I said you were great in bed, that would be heckling?" 

 And so she had him at "Woo hoo."
 
Though this could be considered a basic boy meets girl, boys loses girl, boy gets her back rom-com, it has some very special elements that separates it from the pack.
 
First of all, Kumail is Pakistani and is part of a traditional Pakistani family who believes that marriages should be arranged.  As Kumail explains to Emily, "In Pakistan arranged marriage is just called 'marriage."  So we have the dramedy element of Kumail not telling his parents about Emily while at the same time entertaining their picks for his arranged marriage, women who "just happen to drop by" when he is dining with his parents. 

In the meantime, Kumail and Emily are happily in love until Emily finds Kumail's stash of "bio-data." These are like resumes which potential brides bring to a meeting with her potential husband and his family, a common practice in the course of arranging a marriage.  When Emily finds these, she breaks off their relationship. 

So that's one element that sets this film apart from other rom-coms. But then there is the coma.  I don't remember a coma as a central element in a rom-com

This film reminded me of  the comic documentary "Meet the Patels."  Even though that was about Indian arranged marriages, the process seems to be very similar with Pakistani families, and the protagonist of that one was also a stand-up comic with an American girlfriend he doesn't tell his parents about.  


Directed by Michael Showalter (he also directed "Hello My Name is Doris" which I liked), produced by Judd Apetow, and written by Nanjiani and his real-life wife, Emily V. Gordon, based on their real life courtship with some literary license thrown in, this film is delightful and avoids any juvenile humor, which can sometimes be found in Apetow's films.

Kumail is adorable.  His deadpan delivery and facial expressions are funny just on their own, but the writing is quick and witty and best of all...funny.  Zoe is adorable, quirky and smark and I love adorable, quirky and smart.  I am not a big fan of Holly Hunter who played Emily's mother.  I find her mannerisms and voice annoying but here she was fine.  But it was Ray Romano who was a revelation.  Not usually a big fan of him, either, and he also has an annoying and very recognizable voice, but, here, he brings huge heart to his role as Emily's Dad. You wouldn't even recognize him as that Raymond from "Everybody Loves Raymond," except for that voice.  He was adorable too. The whole thing was so damn adorable...and, what do I do when I have a really good film experience?  Yes, you are right, I cried...for joy!

Rosy the Reviewer says...it takes a coma to make a guy realize he loves you...in a good way.  Don't miss this one.  It's the best comedy to come along in a long time.

 

 

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

On DVD






Sleepless (2017)


This is one of those cop thrillers where you have to ask - Good cop or bent cop? 

OK, here I go again.  Over the last couple of weeks I have ranted about how much I hate sequels and movie remakes, and I just finished ranting about rom-coms that aren't funny.  Well, I feel another rant coming on.

Movies shot in digital!

I can always tell when a movie is shot in digital rather than film because it looks like one of those old soap operas that used to be on TV.  Remember "The Guiding Light?"  Shooting in digital lacks depth of field and resolution which makes all of the frames look flat.  There is no texture and that makes me feel like I am watching TV and I didn't pay $12 to watch TV.  Well, I know, I was watching this on DVD so I didn't actually pay $12 but that's not the point.  The point is that watching a movie on digital is annoying, and I shouldn't have to be annoyed when I am watching a movie! Now there might be times when digital works better, especially when the filmmaker wants to have a home movie look, but for a film like this, no!

Anyway, rant over.  Let's get on with it! 

Jamie Foxx stars as Vincent Downs, a vice cop in Las Vegas (except this was actually shot in Atlanta, another complaint of mine - setting a movie one place and filming it another.  When you live in Seattle you have to accept that all movies set in Seattle will be filmed in Vancouver, B.C. I might rant about that next week). Anyway, Downs and his partner, Sean Cass (T.I.), rob casino owner Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) of a shipment of cocaine who Rubino had intended to sell to Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy), the son of a crime boss.  Ironically, Downs and Cass are also the investigators in the robbery, but clash with Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and Doug Dennison (David Harbour), who are Internal Affairs investigators and who are suspicious of them.

Meanwhile, Downs has a messed up personal life.  He is estranged from his wife, Dena (Gabrielle Union), who is getting married to someone else.  He also has a 16-year-old son, Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson), who gets kidnapped by Rubino's guys and held hostage so that Vincent will give Rubino his cocaine back. Rubino is sweating it, because he owes the cocaine to Novak who is not a nice guy.  Let's just say I know this about Novak because there is a disturbing scene where a kid is hung upside down and pelted with baseballs from a pitching machine, and if that's not enough, he cuts off his thumb.  So these are not guys who Rubino does not want to mess with. 

So Vincent gets the cocaine he and Cass stole, hides it in a ventilation shaft in the mens' bathroom in Rubino's casino hoping to have some leverage as he makes a deal with Rubino. However, what he doesn't know is that Bryant, thinking Vincent is a bent cop, has followed him, finds the cocaine and hides it in the womens' bathroom and a little game of revolving bathroom doors ensues.

When Vincent discovers that the cocaine is missing, he has to figure out a way to get his son back without that cocaine so he comes up with the bright idea to substitute sugar for the cocaine. It kind of all goes to hell after that, but here's the main thing for you to wonder about in this movie:  Is Vincent a good cop or a bad cop?  And what about Bryant and Dennison?  Good cops or bad cops?

Directed by Baran bo Odar with a screenplay by Andrea Berloff (adapted from the film "Nuit Blanche" - yet another remake - sigh), this film doesn't really say anything new about the good cop/bad cop trope with the usual car chases and gun action found in this kind of film.

I haven't quite decided yet on Jamie Foxx as a dramatic actor.  Oh, I know he won an Oscar for "Ray," but here is overacts just a teensy-weensy bit.  No actually, he overacts a lot!  He played this same kind of part in "Baby Driver" too.  It's like he wants to make sure we know he's a dramatic actor so he looks hard and says every line with deep, deep conviction. But I also feel like Foxx can't decide what he wants to be - dramatic actor?  Action guy? Comic?  Singer?  And I have to admit, I still can't watch Jamie without thinking of him as Ugly Wanda on "In Living Color."  Sorry, Jamie, but I can't.


It's fun seeing Dermott Mulroney as a bad guy and all of the other bad guys are believable.  Speaking of bad guys, why is it that they all seem to look alike?  They are all skinny with five o'clock shadows, bald heads or very short shaved hair and they all seem to wear t-shirts under suit jackets.  Is there some code amongst movie bad guys about appropriate attire when torturing people?

Now, Michelle Monaghan.  I really like her, and she is an actress who should be a lot more famous than she is.  She is beautiful and talented and could play any part. Here she kicks some you know what and I like tough women characters. However, she doesn't seem to carry very many films and I don't know why, but if you want to see her in a starring role, see "Fort Bliss."  The film is forgettable but she is not.

Rosy the Reviewer says...and this film? Speaking of forgettable...

 
(***Sorry about the rants but I just can't seem to help myself. I already feel another one coming for next week where I plan to rant about the excessive use of Power Walks in movies***)

 





A Cure for Wellness (2016)


A young executive is sent to bring back his company's CEO who has gone to a spa in the Swiss Alps but this spa turns out to be

People who work in a high pressure environment are prone to dying from heart attacks and stress so it's a good thing to go to a spa and de-stress, right?  Well, we shall see.

A large company is on the verge of a merger so when Pembroke (Harry Groener), the head of a large company, sends a letter to his Board of Directors that he is at a spa in the Alps and will not be returning. With the merger threatened, the Board sends young executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan, a hot young actor currently starring in "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" opening in theatres today)) to find his boss and bring him back.  When he arrives in the town at the base of the spa, Lockhart learns that there is bad blood between the townspeople and "the people on the hill," and when he finally makes his way to the spa, he realizes that there is something strange going on there.  And trust me, there is.

However, on his way back to his hotel, a deer hits the car (cover your eyes for this part - deer death by car is horrible), and Lockhart finds himself back at the spa with a broken leg. When Lockhart finally makes contact with Pembroke, Pembroke tells him he is not well and does not want to leave the spa.

In the meantime, with time to kill as he convalesces, Lockhart meets Hannah (Mia Goth, who looks eerily like a young Shelley Duvall), a strange girl who doesn't seem to be a patient and, of course, there has to be a sinister doctor running everything so he also meets slithery Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs).  Volmer orders the spa treatment for Lockhart, which involves being submerged in water, a lot of slithery eels and drinking water, lots and lots of water.  About 3/4 of the way through the film, when much of the bad stuff was kicking into gear, I shouted at the screen, "Stop drinking the damn water!"  Eventually, Lockhart discovers the dark history of the spa but not before enduring some terrible trials, one of which was a bit of dental torture that would give that scene in "Marathon Man" a run for its money.

Let's just say that this film gives the expression "taking the waters" a whole new meaning.

It's all very Stephen King and Michael Crichton with the kinds of odd characters and strange locations you find in Wes Anderson films with some gaslighting thrown in for good measure as Lockhart starts to question his own sanity.  Who and what is real?

There is a thing I have noticed about movie previews (what would one of my reviews be without a rant?). 

A preview, or trailer, is designed to make you want to see the film, but sometimes when you finally see it, you realize that the the best bits were all in the trailer.  The film never gets any better than the preview.  That is especially true of many comedies.  So before I saw this film, I had seen the trailer countless times at the theatre and thought it was one of those strange films with all kinds of kooky characters and a weird plot that wouldn't really make sense so I didn't particularly want to see it. I only watched this film because it had just come out on DVD and I can't help myself. I want to see everything, but in this case, the trailer was odd and the movie was a bit odd, yes, but mostly really good. Yes, there are kooky characters and a strange plot but it's fun. Moral of the story?  Don't judge a film by its trailer. However, I do have to say the film was also too long and took a strange turn at the end that lost me.

Directed by Gore Verbinski with a screenplay by Justin Haythe, the cinematography is gorgeous and surreal and the film reminded me a bit of "The Lobster," a wonderful film that not enough people saw.

DeHaan reminded me of a young Leo DiCaprio and, I think he is going to be a big star.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Stephen King, Michael Crichton with a little bit of Wes Anderson thrown in, you will enjoy this film.




***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

193 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





The Last Laugh (1924)




An aging hotel doorman must face the humiliation of losing his prestigious job.

Emil Jennings stars as an aging doorman, who when fired from his job as a doorman at a luxurious hotel, faces the laughter and scorn of his family and neighbors. His job is a prestigious one for the lower class neighborhood in which he lives.  Every day he puts on his fancy uniform and walks through his neighborhood to the admiration of his friends and neighbors.  So when he is demoted to a men's room attendant he can't bring himself to tell anyone.  He steals back his fancy uniform and puts it on each day and then takes it off before he gets to work and stores it in a locker. 

Eventually he is found out, is rejected and dejected and falls into a deep depression.

But wait!

As we learn from a title card (also called intertitles):

"Here our story should really end, for in actual life the forlorn old man would have little to look forward to but death.  The author took pity on him, however, and provided quite an improbably epilogue."

Guess who got the last laugh?

This is a silent film directed by F.W. Murnau, and except for that last title card, or subtitle, this was a silent film with absolutely no subtitles and yet I knew what was going on at all times.  Such is the power of this visual medium called the moving picture.  As I have said in past reviews, I tend not to be a big fan of early cinema.  I am a child of television and I guess I need more stimulation but this film reminded me again of that old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  So I may not extoll the virtues of every silent film because of the overacting that was required and the scant plots, but I do admire films that use visuals instead of words.  The camera work in this film was so beautiful that I was transported to another time and place and it was all without words.

Why it's a Must See:  "Despite a ludicrously unconvincing happy ending grafted on at the insistence of the UFA, [this film] remains a very impressive attempt to tell a story without the use of intertitles...[It is] one of Murnau's typically eloquent explorations of cinematic space: the camera prowls around with astonishing fluidity...it is the camera's mobility that is evocative, as when it passes through the revolving doors that serve as a symbol of destiny. The dazzling technique on display may, in fact, be rather too grand for the simple story of one old man, yet there is no denying the virtuosity either of Murnau's mise-en-scene or of Karl Freund's camera work."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful example of the innovations of movie making in it's infancy.
(Silent, in b & w)




***Book of the Week***




Ten Restaurants That Changed America by Paul Freedman (2016)


A history of dining out in America through the profiles of ten restaurants that helped shape American eating habits. 

Freedman chronicles ten different restaurants over three different centuries, from the 1830's to the present.  He makes clear that these are not necessarily the ten BEST restaurants over that time period, though these restaurants served wonderful food, but perhaps food that would not necessarily be popular today.  These restaurants did more than serve wonderful food; they changed how we Americans ate, they influenced our tastes and got Americans to dine out.  According to Freedman, what we eat today is the result of the innovations of these ten restaurants.


Delmonico's
This famous restaurant began as a simple pastry shop in New York City in 1827, but by 1830 it was serving fine French food, had an immense menu, efficient service and a gracious atmosphere and set the standard for fine dining.  It also inspired many imitators who used the name Delmonico's without authorization.



Antoine's
Established in 1840 in New Orleans' French Quarter, Antoine's, serving French-Creole cuisine, is the oldest grand restaurant in continuous existence.



Schrafft's
"The Ladies Who Lunch." The first restaurant to market to women at a time when women were discouraged from dining without a man and the first to cater to the middle class.  "From its very beginning, Schrafft's epitomized the restaurant's role as a decorous but economical refuge, a midday oasis of sorts, where women who were shopping could dine and recuperate, or where women who worked in offices or stores could have a tranquil if more hurried lunch."



Howard Johnson's
"As American as fried clams."  Starting with its first restaurant in suburban Boston, fried clams was one of their specialties along with their 28 flavors of ice cream.  Can you name them?  What was your favorite? I think Bergundy Cherry was mine. Who of us Baby Boomers didn't go on road trips with our family hoping to stop at Howard Johnson's?  But then McDonald's came along and it was a whole different ball game.


Mama Leone's
Mamma Leone's was an Italian restaurant that flourished in New York City from 1906 to 1994 and was a forerunner in the popularity of "ethnic" restaurants.


The Mandarin
"The Best Chinese Food East of the Pacific."  Freedman writes that with so many to choose from, it was daunting to choose one Chinese restaurant to highlight, but the Mandarin was "both historically significant and intriguing." It opened in San Francisco in 1961 and closed in 2006 and was one of the first Chinese restaurants to serve "Mandarin" food or non-Cantonese.  It was at the Mandarin where Americans had their first pot-stickers, hot-and-sour soup and other Sechuan dishes. With over 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States - "more than there are branches of McDonald's, Burger King and KFC combined...Chinese food is as American as apple pie," the popularity of Chinese restaurants in America came from the restaurants catering to American taste.  Chop Suey is NOT Chinese. 



Sylvia's
Sylvia Woods opened her restaurant in New York's Harlem in 1962 and was famous for its soul food, rural, Southern "down-home" cooking.  This restaurant, according to Freedman, "reveals the cultural implications of the movement of black people from the South to the North in the first part of the twentieth century." 



Le Pavillon
This was the leading high-end restaurant in America in the mid-twentieth century run by Henri Soule and began as a temporary restaurant, part of the French exhibit created for the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940.



The Four Seasons
The epitome of modern at the time, The Four Seasons is credited with introducing the idea of seasonally-changing menus to America. It was the first destination restaurant to print its menus in English.




Chez Panisse
Celebrity chef Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971 and her "farm to table" approach to food still influences how we eat now.

Freedman includes biographies of the various chefs who moved in and out of those restaurants, copies of menus, lots of historical photographs and he goes on to talk about the end of the fine French dining craze, concluding with a discussion of five major current and recent dining trends:

  • Farm to table
  • Molecular/Modernist Gastronomy
  • Celebrity Chefs
  • The Influence of Asia
  • The New Informality of the Dining Experience

And there are recipes too!  Classic recipes from the ten restaurants.  Who doesn't want to make those fried clams from Howard Johnson's?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a foodie, you will love this well-researched history of dining out in America.





 

Thanks for reading!



 See you next Friday 


 
for my review of  
 
  
"Girls Trip"



and
 


 The Week in Reviews


(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project."


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Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 


Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.

Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."





 
 
 

Friday, July 14, 2017

"The Beguiled" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Beguiled" as well as DVDs "Life" and last year's Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film - "The Salesman."  The Book of the Week is "The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the People's Temple" by Jeff Guinn.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with another Jean Vigo film: "L'Atalante"]




The Beguiled


It's three years into the Civil War and wounded Union soldier John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is discovered by a young girl and taken to her Southern school where three sexually-repressed women and three other young girls live.  What do you think might happen?  Gee, really?

Well, you are right.

But before I get into the story, I feel a rant coming on.

I know I ranted last week about sequels.  Well, this week it's about remakes.

This film is a remake of the 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood as McBurney and directed by Don Siegel.  After reminding myself of the first film, from what I can gather there are few changes to this script.  For one, there was a black character, a slave named Matilda, who has been eliminated from the story and director Sophia Coppola has taken some heat for that.  In this film, there is a statement that the slaves had all left, which I thought was strange. And the first film also had a theme of incest and lots more sex which is not present here.  But since the first film was directed by Don Siegel, a director known more for action films aimed at men than films starring women and who purportedly said of this film that it was about "the basic desire of women to castrate men," I can see why Coppola, a woman, didn't copy the first film.

So, anyway, here is the thing about remakes. 

I would think the reason you would remake a film is because the first film was so awesome, you want to update it and see it again.  But then I have to ask, if the first film was so great, why remake it?  Let it live out its artistic life as a wonderful film. This seems to happen most often with films that start out as foreign films.  We Americans just can't seem to handle subtitles. A perfect example of this is the original "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which was a highly acclaimed Swedish film and made both Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist (who just recently died at only 56) stars. Yes, I know it was in Swedish with English subtitles, but grow up, people.  You can deal with those subtitles. Though the remake was also highly acclaimed, that first film did not need to be remade.  But OK, that remake worked out. But then there is the remake that falls short like "The Secret in Their Eyes," a fantastic Argentinian film that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010 and was remade in 2015 as a vehicle for Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts and was reworked into something unrecognizable, especially since I had seen the original.

So for me, unlike sequels, where it is important to remember what happened in the first film in order to know what the heck is going on in the sequel, for a remake, it works best if you DON'T remember the first film so you are not comparing the two. As I said, Coppola has changed the film out a bit from the first one, and since I saw the first film 46 years ago and can't remember what happened in it anyway, I was able to take this film on face value as a new film. So maybe this isn't really a remake of a film that didn't need to be remade after all, but more a woman's version of the story, a better version since I am not a big Clint Eastwood fan anyway and take issue with Siegel's lame comment....so I guess, never mind.  Sorry I said anything.

So on with the story!

Young Amy (Oona Laurence, a child actress who I remember from "Bad Moms" and who is one of the few that I don't hate) is out looking for mushrooms in the sultry countryside near her Southern school - the Farnsworth Seminary for Young Girls - when she comes upon a wounded Union soldier, who introduces himself as Corporal John McBurney.  He seems harmless enough and Amy has a tender heart, because she loves all living things and I guess that includes wounded Union soldiers, so she helps him up and takes him to her school where six other women and young girls have taken refuge.  These women and girls are on their own because the slaves have supposedly all left and these are the girls who had nowhere else to go.

The school is presided over by Miss Martha Farmsworth (Nicole Kidman), hence the school's name, and classes are taught by Miss Edwina (Kirsten Dunst).  In addition to Amy, the other students are Alicia (Elle Fanning), Marie (Addison Riecke), Emily (Emma Howard) and Jane (Angourie Rice, who is currently starring in the new Spider Man movie).

Though Miss Martha plans to let the local Confederate Army know about Corporal McBurney by tying a blue cloth onto the school gate, an agreed upon alert when Union soldiers are about, she also believes helping McBurney is her Christian duty so they install him on a couch and lock him in the music room where Miss Martha proceeds to tend to his wounded leg. She also gets the idea to bathe McBurney, who has fallen into a sort of coma, so she dismisses the girls who are all agog at having a man in the house and proceeds to give him a sponge bath, almost succumbing to a case of the vapors while doing so.  She gets so turned on that she has to splash her face with cold water.

Thus sets the scene for each woman and young girl to jockey for the attention of this handsome man in their midst, and as they do so, jealousy, sexual tension and eventually violence ensues.  It also doesn't help that McBurney knows his power and charm and uses it to manipulate and insinuate himself into the lives of these women and girls. 

In addition to the sexual repression that reeks from Miss Martha, Miss Edwina is also all aflutter, and when McBurney asks what she would wish for if she could have anything she wanted, she reveals that she would leave the school and never come back. He tells her she is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen, and you know what that does to a woman when a man tells her that, right?  Meanwhile, Alicia is a fascinated teenager and one night excuses herself from evening prayer to go into McBurney's room and kiss him goodnight.  So now we have three women all vying for the attentions of Corporal McBurney.

So you see, not good.  Some very not good stuff is going to happen.

Director Sophia Coppola (who won the Best Director prize at Cannes this year for this film) has adapted this screenplay (this and the earlier film was based on Thomas P. Cullinan's 1966 novel) and created a stultifying and stifling atmosphere ripe for the sexual tension that ensues when these women and girls are confronted with a man in their midst.  And Farrell does a good job of playing the charming McBurney who easily accepts the attentions of the women and girls but when the tables turn shows his ugly side.  And it's not easy creating a character with depth when you are lying on your back for the most of the film, which is the case for Farrell.

Kidman is excellent as the buttoned-up school marm doing her "Christian duty" by caring for a Union soldier but who slowly warms toward McBurney.  Likewise, Dunst does a good job as Edwina who was able to hold in her desires until the man of her dreams appears.  Elle Fanning is also good as the curious teenager who is eventually the catalyst that leads to the final tragic ending. You know how I feel about child actors, but Laurence is particularly memorable as the young Amy who loves her pet turtle and all living things.  Likewise, the other young girls also all play their parts well.

The opening frame of the film when the title appears harks back to costume films from The Golden Age of Hollywood such as "Gone With the Wind" and "Raintree County," and this film has that kind of feel. Coppola is aided in creating the broody gothic atmosphere that is so important to this film by Philippe Le Sourd's beautifully dreamy cinematography  and a moody score based on Monteverdi's "Magnificat" arranged by Laura Karpman.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...I am not going to hold it against this film that it's a remake since I couldn't remember the original, so let's forget the first one and if you like slow-burning Southern Gothic films, you will enjoy this.




***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

On DVD




Life (2017)

Life Poster

Soil samples from Mars arrive at the International Space Station and when the sample proves to house a life form, all hell breaks loose.

An all-star cast flies around in zero gravity in this sci-fi film that is also a horror film reminiscent of "Alien."  Well, not just reminiscent.  Very much like "Alien." But it not only begs the question "Is there life on Mars," but also asks "Do we really want to find out?"

Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada), Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya) and Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) are the multinational crew of the International Space Station, representing the United States, the UK, Russia and Japan.  Sho's wife has just had a baby back on earth; Rory is the ship's mechanic; Miranda is from the CDC; David is the crew's medic and was just breaking the record for most consecutive days in space (400+) and is in no hurry to get back having become disgusted with what he saw there; Hugh is an exo-biologist; and I wasn't ever sure what Ekaterina did.  She was some kind of commander.

Anyway, after receiving a sample from Mars they discover an organism that is incontravertible proof that there is life beyond earth.  As they broadcast this find to earth, there is much excitement and there is even a contest where school children compete to name the organism.  The winning name is Calvin.

The film is slow to get started as we get to know the astronauts.  And as Calvin grows, we are lulled into thinking that it is benign.  Think again.  The gotcha moment is coming soon and then its non-stop intensity.  That little bugger Calvin may look like a starfish made out of jello but he is very strong and smart and when he finds his way out of the incubator it starts picking off the crew members one by one.

We lose Rory Adams early on in a very gross scene similar to the one in "Alien," except instead of the alien busting out of Rory's body he gets inside and well...it's not pretty.  I couldn't help but wonder why Reynolds would want such a small part in this film.

Soon the crew loses all communication with earth.  Can this get any worse?

Why, yes it can!  And it does!

Jordan and North must make some difficult decisions.  Can they get back to earth?  And if so, how do they make sure that Calvin doesn't come with them?

Directed by Daniel Espinosa with a screenplay by Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick, not sure how this movie got lost but it didn't stay in theatres long. Too bad because it's really good and really scary and really gross, if you like that kind of thing.  

There was just one little thing that bothered me, and I am terrible about noticing inconsistencies and mistakes, no matter how small.  Much is made of the children's book "Goodnight Moon" but please people.  From the size and thickness of the book in the movie, you would think that "Goodnight Moon" is a chapter book. It's not.  Like I said, I notice stuff like that.  I know, it's irritating, but I can't help it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the stuff that nightmares are made of...in a good way!






The Salesman (2016)



When a woman is assaulted in her new apartment, her husband goes on a mission to find the attacker and seek revenge.

I have to admit at the outset, I am a huge fan of director Asghar Farhadi.  I loved his film "A Separation (which rightfully won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012), I loved his next film "The Past," and this one is no exception, and amazingly and deservedly, also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film this last year, though Farhadi was not able to pick up his Oscar in person because of Trump's travel ban. 

Farhadi's characters may be Iranian and the films are in Farsi, but the storylines he pursues have no nationality or particular language.  They embody the drama of the daily lives and human emotions that people from all over the world can relate to.

This time, we are introduced to Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), a married couple who are forced out of their apartment because it is crumbling due to construction next door.  He is a literature teacher and both are part of an amateur theatre troupe that is putting on Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," so when one of the actors says he has an apartment they can move into, they jump at the chance. 

Soon after moving into the new apartment, Rana leaves the play early, goes home and gets ready to take a shower when the door buzzer goes off.  Thinking it's her husband, she buzzes him in and off she goes to the shower leaving the door open.

Not good.

You see, it is revealed that the person who lived in the apartment before them was a prostitute and the person Rana let into the apartment was a man looking for the prostitute's services.

We don't see what happened, we only see Emad arriving home to find blood on the stairs and in the bathroom and that his wife is in the hospital.

Farhadi is a master at dealing with human emotions and the heart of this film is shame, avoiding shame, which is particularly important in repressive societies like Iran.  Rana doesn't want to go to the police because she feels shame that it was she who unlocked the door and let the man in.  In those kinds of societies, and even in religions here in the United States, rather than people believing that someone is innocent until proven guilty, we have to prove it's not our fault that something happened to us. And revenge and honor killings are also major parts of dealing with shame.  And being humiliated in front of one's family is worse than death. This theme is played out not only with Emad and Rana but later in the film when the perpetrator is confronted.

Emad goes on a mission to find this man who attacked his wife.  Farhadi builds the emotion and intensity that Emad is feeling and when he eventually finds the man we see the rift between men and woman and the repressive chauvinistic society that breeds that schism.

The making of "The Death of a Salesman" is a side-plot, but its story is so key to this one and provides many layers.  One layer is a political one, the difficulty Iranians might have putting on such a potently American play but the other layer is the correlation between the humiliation that the character - Willy Loman - felt in the play and the humiliation being dealt with by the characters in the film. The play also provides an important link to the title of this film and asks the question:  Who is the salesman?

As I said, I am a huge fan of Farhadi's.  The theme of a husband going on a mission to seek revenge for an attack on his wife is a theme that has been done many times before, but in Farhadi's masterful hands, it's new and original. His films are wonderful so I hope you won't be put off by subtitles.  This is an important film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you read my reviews, you know what it means when I cry at the end of a film.  I cry when I know I have just seen a really brilliant film.  I cried.
(In Farsi with English subtitles)




***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***


194 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




L'Atalante (1934)


Juliette (Dita Parlo) and her new husband, ship captain, Jean (Jean Daste), start their marriage aboard his ship, L'Atalante, along with first mate Jules (Michel Simon) and a cabin boy.  Not a great way to start a marriage as you will see.

Trying to start a marriage on a barge with a couple of idiots in tow is not recommended.  Everyone seems to be making a move on Juliette.  In fact this film was a bit risque for it's time which would have been pre-censorship, though I don't think the French filmmakers worried about censorship much.

The couple travel to Paris to deliver cargo, enjoying a makeshift honeymoon en route. Jules and the cabin boy are not used to the presence of a woman aboard and when Jean discovers Juliette and Jules talking in Jules's quarters, Jean flies into a jealous rage by smashing plates and sending Jules's cats scattering. Arriving in Paris, Jean promises Juliette a night out and takes her to a dance hall where a man flirts with her and once again Jean flies into a jealous rage and drags Juliette back to the barge. 

However, Juliette is now enamored of Paris and sneaks off the boat to go see Paris on her own.  When Jean discovers this, he decides to leave her behind and casts off in yet another rage.  A series of events befall Juliette who is now abandoned, alone and practically homeless in Paris.  Meanwhile, Jean, who so far hasn't turned out to be a very good husband, regrets his decision to leave her behind and when Jean falls into a depression and almost loses his job, Jules decides he needs to take matters into his own hands and go find Juliette. When he does find her, there is a humorous sweetness to their encounter.

This is the second film in a row directed by Jean Vigo that I have seen and reviewed, and as I said last week when I reviewed "Zero for Conduct," I find some of these early films a slog to get through.  I liked this one better than "Zero," but not by much, though it shows Vigo's progression as a filmmaker.  I can appreciate the early films in their historical context, but these are not the kinds of films where I look forward to the experience. And French humor is an acquired taste.  I mean, let me remind you that Jerry Lewis is a comic god to French people.

Why it's a Must See:  "...Jean Vigo's masterpiece L'Atalante is the cinema's greatest ode to heterosexual passion...Vigo's death at the age of twenty-nine was a tragic loss.  But [this film] crowns his legacy -- and is there any scene in cinema sexier than the magnificent, Eisensteinian montage of Jean's and Juliette's bodies, far apart, matched in postures of mutual arousal, an act of love made possible only through the soulful language of film?"
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...geez, maybe I had better watch this one again!
(b & w, in French with English subtitles)




***The Book of the Week***





The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the People's Temple by Jeff Guinn (2017)


A detailed and fascinating look at Jim Jones, the self-proclaimed preacher and founder of the Peoples Temple, who was responsible for the largest murder-suicide in American history.

I have always been fascinated with true crime and cults and am drawn to books about those subjects.  I just want to understand what makes seemingly normal people murder or join cults.  Yes, Jones had a less than perfect childhood.  His mother was overbearing and probably delusional - she always told Jones he was special and meant for great things, but didn't we all tell our kids that? His father was disabled from war injuries and possibly an abusive alcoholic and Jones was left to fend for himself.  But there are many people with childhoods worse than Jones's who didn't grow up to be megalomaniacs who caused the deaths of over 900 children and adults.

But in addition to my fascination with cults, I also have a sort of peripheral connection to Jones when I lived in California. I lived in San Francisco in the early 1970's and left right before Jones came to prominence in that City and before he moved to Guyana.  I also lived in a remote part of Northern California in the mid-70's, not far from Redwood Valley where Jim Jones moved his congregation from Indianapolis in the 60's.  Though he had moved most of his congregation to San Francisco by then, the Peoples Temple still had ties to the area when I lived there.  Though I never interacted with any of his followers (that I know of), I can relate to the places and the times when Jones and his gospel took root. 

Anyway, Guinn has done an excellent job of researching and presenting Jones's life from his beginnings in rural Indiana to his interest in Socialism and racial equality and his civil rights accomplishments in Indianapolis.  He met and married Marceline Baldwin, the daughter of a Methodist minister, and she was his champion all of her life, despite his failings as a husband.  You see, as Jones built his following and ascended to god status with many of them who called him Father, his sexual appetites also grew.  Such is the peril of power.  And he also had an appetite for drugs which led to his paranoia as he went from preaching Socialism and the need to help others to the evils of the United States government and the end of the world which led him to move his followers to a remote part of Guyana.

When the media started to become interested in the People's Temple and Jones was threatened with a series of articles that would supposedly expose him, he decided it was time to make the move to Guyana and all might have been OK had he not gotten into a custody battle with an ex-lover and her husband over her son, who was presumed also the son of Jones, and whom Jones had taken to Guyana.  That and a group of people worried about the welfare of their loved ones in Jonestown led to the fateful journey of Congressman Leo Ryan, his aides and members of the media to visit Jonestown to check on the child and other Jonestown residents.

Jones had been preaching to his flock that one day they might all have to commit suicide and, though the visit started out well, things all went to hell...and we know how it all turned out as almost all of his followers drank cyanide-laced Flavor Aid.  Ironically, the expression "drinking the Kool-Aid" was spawned from this event, as in those who are forced to change their opinions or do something they don't want to do because of peer pressure.  Knowing where that expression came from, it's a rather offensive idiom and ironically, it wasn't Kool-Aid at all, it was Flavor-Aid.

How does a man who started out to do good in the world turn into such a monster, forcing his followers to kill their children and then themselves?

Guinn doesn't offer any ready answers but he ends the book this way:

"...Was Jim Jones always bad, or was he gradually corrupted by a combination of ambition, drugs, and hubris?  There is no definitive answer: Jones was a complicated man who rarely revealed all of his often contradictory dimensions to anyone.
      It seems certain that, at some level, Jones truly hated racial and economic inequality.  As a teenager he preached against such evils in rough Richmond (Indiana) neighborhoods where he stood to gain nothing by it other than insults and beatings.  In Indianapolis, Jones fought, often single-handedly, to bring about integration in a highly segregated city, and to a great extent succeeded.  Under Jones's leadership, Peoples Temple acted on the biblical precepts of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked...In one of the deepest, most dangerous jungles in the world, one thousand Americans, many of them recent big-city ghetto dwellers who had never so much as mowed a lawn, for almost four years, built and maintained a farm settlement that came very close to being self-sustaining...
      Yet he was also a demagogue who ultimately betrayed his followers...
      But there was something unique about Jones and those who chose to follow him.  Traditionally, demagogues succeed by appealing to the worst traits in others:  Follow me and you'll have more, or, follow me and I'll protect what you already have against those who want to take it away from you.
       Jim Jones attracted followers by appealing to the best in their nature, a desire for everyone to share equally."

And yet...

Here's my take..."Absolute power corrupts absolutely." [Lord Acton)

Rosy the Reviewer says...a well-written, engrossing look at a frightening event in our history and the man who orchestrated it.  This book will stand as the definitive work on Jim Jones and the Jonestown tragedy.






Thanks for reading!


 See you next Friday 

 
for my review of  

 
"The Big Sick"


and


 The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project."

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