Friday, November 17, 2017

"Daddy's Home 2" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Daddy's Home 2" as well as DVDs "The Book of Henry" and "The Midwife."  The Book of the Week is "Cherry Bombe - The Cookbook."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with the western "Silver Lode."]





Daddy's Home 2


Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) are back and they are getting along fine until they not only have to deal with a blended family Christmas but they also have to deal with their own Dads.

I enjoy a good comedy.  I really do. I know you are probably thinking I don't have a sense of humor because I have been trashing so many comedies lately. I am even questioning that myself after sitting through "A Bad Moms Christmas" with nary a chuckle.  But I know I do have a good sense of humor. I really do like a good comedy and I like to laugh.  But the operative word here is "good" and the main criterion for a comedy should be getting you to laugh, right?  So hope springs eternal, and I keep watching comedies hoping for the best.  

However, with that said, I didn't hold out much hope for this sequel and was about to hold a funeral for the death of the American comedy after seeing so many disappointing comedies of late with "A Bad Moms Christmas" being the final straw, so you can imagine my surprise when I heard myself laughing. 

I actually enjoyed this film.  

Now granted, my expectations were low but there were some chuckles to be had.  Was it really, really funny?  No. Was it devoid of the usual comedy and Christmas clichés?  No. Did I feel all warm and fuzzy afterwards?  Sort of.
Did I laugh?  Yes.

If you saw the first "Daddy's Home," you know that Brad is married to Dusty's ex-wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini) and is a step-dad to her children.  Brad is a bit of a softy.  OK, he's a wimp in contrast to Dusty who is a handsome, tough man's man. He's the cool Dad where Brad is the sensitive one.  Brad had been intimidated by Dusty and struggled to be accepted by his step-children, but by the end of the first film, Dusty and Brad were friends and Dusty had remarried with a step-daughter and an intimidating ex-husband of his own to deal with.

So when the sequel begins, Dusty and Brad are such good friends and doing such a good job of co-parenting that Brad actually brings Dusty hot chocolate when he is attending to the parent drop off at school and when the kids express disappointment that they have to go back and forth at Christmas Dusty and Brad both decide to do one big family Christmas for both families.

That all seems hunky dory until Dusty's Dad, Kurt (Mel Gibson), unexpectedly shows up and Brad's Dad, Don (John Lithgow) shows up without his wife. Just as Brad is a wimp who can't seem to do much right and Dusty is a macho guy, Don is a Dad who greets Brad with a big juicy kiss on the lips and Kurt is an ex-astronaut tough guy disdainful of displays of affection.  In fact, Kurt is disdainful of almost everything about Dusty and his life choices especially this whole co-Dad thing Dusty and Brad have doing.  Kurt certainly doesn't approve of someone like Brad raising his grandchildren, but Dusty doesn't care because Kurt hasn't been around much and Dusty doesn't approve of Kurt either.  Let the tension ensue!

To give you a taste of the difference between the grandfathers:

When Don arrives and greets his grandchildren he tells them a joke:

"Why do ducks have feathers?"  "To cover up their butt quacks."

Kurt, not wanting to be outdone by Don in front of the grandkids, starts to tell a joke too:

"Two hookers wash up on the beach..."

Dusty cuts him off mid-joke.

So we quickly get the idea of the kinds of interactions we are going to get between the two grandfathers. 

When Kurt decides that they should all go spend the holiday at a lodge in the mountains, there are all kinds of opportunities for hijinks and things to go wrong.  And they do. Kurt certainly doesn't approve of Brad and Dusty co-parenting so think of Kurt as a kind of devil who looks for opportunities to drive a wedge between Dusty and Brad.

One can't help but compare this film to "A Bad Moms Christmas." "Bad Moms" added extra Moms and this one has extra Dads. Both use the device of counting down the days until Christmas for the inevitable big finale. "Bad Moms" had a disapproving grandparent in Christine Baranski and here we have Mel Gibson's Kurt.  There are overly precocious kids in both movies and both have sentimental Christmas endings. 

Except the big difference is the fact that "Daddy's Home 2" actually has some funny bits in it and "A Bad Moms Christmas" does not.

For example, those of us who, growing up, were forbidden to "fiddle with the thermostat," can relate to a little scene where Dusty's step-daughter is discovered turning up the thermostat to 85 because she likes to sleep with the windows open and all of the Dads give Dusty a hard time for not being clear with his step-daughter about "fiddling with the thermostat."  To them, it's the parenting equivalent of letting your kid run wild.

Though I am not a huge fan of pratfalls and physical humor in order to get laughs, Ferrell is the king of that sort of thing and there is a funny scene where all of the Christmas decorations get caught in his snow blower and the snow blower ends up on the roof and another where Kurt decides real men cut down their own Christmas trees in the forest and Brad cuts down a cell phone tower by accident.  I know, very broad humor but it's still pretty funny when Will Ferrell does it.

I have never been a big Mark Wahlberg fan, probably because of the kinds of movies he usually stars in - action films about firefighters or soldiers.  But I really enjoyed him in this.  His stoic acting approach was just right as a foil for Will Ferrell's over-the-top antics and the two together are very funny and have a lot of chemistry.  Likewise, John Lithgow's Don is sweet and a good foil for Gibson's macho pot-stirring Kurt. 

And speaking of Mel Gibson, he is a revelation in this.  As a womanizing lothario who was never there for Dusty and who can't bring himself to tell him he loves him, Mel Gibson still has the looks to carry off the lothario part and the machismo to be believable as a man lacking affection.  He plays it straight and is the perfect disapproving observer of all of the craziness.

Written and directed by Sean Anders, despite a few R-rated moments, this one is more toned down than the first "Daddy's Home" and makes for a fun Christmas movie that most of the family would enjoy.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you want to see a funny Christmas comedy, see this one, not "A Bad Moms Christmas."  And see? I do have a sense of humor after all.





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

On DVD





The Book of Henry (2017)


With instructions from her son's detailed notebook, a mother tries to rescue a young girl from her abusive step-father.

Naomi Watts stars as Susan Carpenter, a single mom with two sons: Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), a seeming genius and his younger brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay, who was so wonderful in "Room"), and they all live in a picture perfect town so right away you know there are some secrets and some evil lurking there.

Henry is a bit of a geek, meaning he is very smart and focused on geeky things, such as making Rube Goldberg structures in his elaborate tree house and keeping a notebook of sketches and plans for the future.  He is also advanced beyond his years.  That is established early in the film when we see Henry in class.  All of the students are doing oral reports on "My Legacy," and one kid talks about something trivial and then Henry gets up and gives a serious report about the meaning of life. Let's just say he is gifted. The teachers want Susan to put him in a gifted school but she wants him to experience real life in a regular school (sound familiar?  See "Gifted.")  Likewise, Henry has invested Susan's money in the stock market and built up quite a little nest egg for her. He also balances her check book and pretty much runs the household while Susan likes to play violent video games and get drunk with her friend, Sheila (Sarah Silverman).  She is actually kind of useless and can't seem to make a decision without consulting Henry. 

Henry has the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He has to protect Peter from bullies at school, keep his Mom's money and life in order and even feels compelled to intervene in a domestic dispute at the grocery store.  You wonder, who is the adult here?

Henry may be geeky and have a lot of responsibilities, but he is not above having a crush on his neighbor, Christina (Maddie Ziegler, who you may recognize from "Dance Moms," and yes, she dances in this).  He spies on her from his bedroom window, and one day, he sees some disturbing interactions between her and her stepdad, Glenn (Dean Norris).  He tells Susan and she reports him to CPS but wouldn't you know, Glenn is not only a police commissioner but he has connections at CPS!

But then 30 minutes into the film, Henry dies. 

I am not really giving anything away here because his death is the crux of the film.  Susan discovers Henry's book where, knowing he was going to die, he has laid out an elaborate plan for Susan and Peter to get rid of Glenn and save Christina. Susan decides she needs to do what Henry wants her to do just as she has always done.  In addition to the book, Henry has also left step-by-step audiotapes behind that lead Susan along as she tries to save Christina, a very over-the-top device that gives Lieberher a chance to stay in the film despite the fact that he is dead. I mean, he literally carries on a conversation with this mother from the grave through the audiotapes, but through the ensuing series of events, Susan is finally able to grow up and become the adult she was supposed to be in the first place.

Directed by Colin Trevorrow with a screenplay by Gregg Hurwitz, this film was savaged by the critics, but I didn't think it was that bad.  It was only half bad.  I didn't mind the first half, I didn't mind the kid actors, because you know I had an epiphany about that recently while watching "Goodbye, Christopher Robin," and I didn't really mind the mother who let her son handle all of her finances and basically manage her life. 

But the film fell off a cliff in the second half as Susan follows Henry's instructions to rid the world of the mean Glenn.  I think it must have been when she bought the assault rifle that they lost me.   

Watts can always be counted on to bring in a good performance and Silverman is good at snarky roles like this one. Young Lieberher is an engaging young actor, and I believed him as Henry, except the writer got a bit carried away when Henry was giving the principal hell for not doing something about Christina's situation. Despite how good an actor Lieberher is, that scene was a stretch. Not sure a young kid would get away with talking to the school principal like that, no matter how smart he was. Tremblay, who wowed us in "Room" is also a fine young actor and I'm anxious to see him in "Wonder."

This is one of those movies where the idea is interesting but the execution falters and it goes over the top.  For example, a mother would decide to kill someone based on her son telling her to?  Why didn't anyone talk to Christina about the abuse directly, because what if Henry was wrong about what was going on? And then the ending gets all wrapped up a bit too tidily in a Lifetime Movie kind of way.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like engaging child actors or far-fetched Lifetime Movies, you might like this, but in general you can probably skip this one. 







The Midwife (2017)


A midwife gets an unexpected visit from her father's ex-mistress.

Claire (Catherine Frot) is a midwife and single mom whose job has been made redundant when the clinic where she works closes.  She gets an unexpected call from her father's ex-mistress, Beatrice (Catherine Deneuve) and discovers that her father has committed suicide.  It is clear that Claire does not approve of Beatrice and wants nothing to do with her. She blames Beatrice for leaving her father (and her) and for her father's death. Beatrice on the other hand wants to make amends with Claire because Beatrice is dying. 

In the meantime, we learn that Claire doesn't eat meat or drink alcohol, the latter an oddity in France and something of a theme that keeps coming up in the film.  She has a garden plot outside of town and she lives with her son, but his girlfriend is pregnant and he plans to move in with her. Claire is an uptight person with a very limited life - just her work, which is now in question, her son, who is leaving her, and her garden.

Catherine on the other hand is a bit of a libertine, a woman who not only enjoys a drink but enjoys a bit of backroom gambling so naturally her reappearance in Claire's life is a disruption, but you know in the end, it's going to be a disruption that Claire needed to shake up her staid, narrow life.

Beatrice has reunited with Claire to make amends and for Claire to help her die in peace. The two eventually bond - two damaged souls - who each in her own way frees the other. 

It's OK that you know that because it's the getting there that is so wonderful in this film.

What could have been a sentimental bit of treacle is saved by the smart script and the actors, who are women of a certain age at the top of their acting game.

Catherine Deneuve is a wonder. 

She has come a long way since she made a huge splash in 1964 as the ingenue in "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."  I mention her often in my writings because she famously said that after 30 a woman has to choose between her butt or her face, meaning you either decide to be a skinny bitch and accept that your face will probably be gaunt and wrinkly or you let your butt get big but benefit from a little plumpness in your face.  She has chosen her face, though she is hardly fat, and I only bring this up because despite the fact that Deneuve has always been one of the great beauties of the cinema, it doesn't seem that vanity has driven her to go the plastic surgery route of so many beautiful actresses and instead has taken her own advice and allowed herself to age gracefully.  And at 74, she is still beautiful and the best part - busy.  She accepts that she is no longer the ingénue and plays age-appropriate parts that allow her to show off her acting range.

But this film is really about Claire who is brought to life by Beatrice's free spirit and through helping her die.  Frot is just wonderful here. Like Deneuve, she is a veteran actress who I loved in "Marguerite," the French version of "Florence Foster Jenkins," for which she won a Best Actress Cesar Award in 2016. Her face speaks volumes and seeing these two actresses together is a wonderful experience.

Where the British are really good at historical dramas, the French are particularly good at one-on-one personal dramas and have no problem making films about men and women of a certain age.  And, of course, they are really good at sex, too especially sex between real people, people who aren't necessarily gorgeous or thin or young.

Written and directed by Martin Provost, this film is a wonderful experience about the power of forgiveness.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is also one of those films where, having seen it, you feel better about life.
(In French with English subtitles)






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



166 (revised) to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Silver Lode (1954)


Four U.S. marshals ride into the town of Silver Lode looking for Dan Ballard so they can bring him in for murder.  The problem is - he says he didn't do it and is given only a short time to prove his innocence.

Dan Ballard (John Payne) arrived in Silver Lode two years ago with $20,000.  Since then he has made a name for himself and is now a successful rancher. Everyone in town likes and respects him.  The town is in the midst of their Fourth of July celebration and Dan is about to marry Rose Evans (Lizabeth Scott), the daughter of the richest man in town, when U.S. Marshals, led by Fred McCarty (Dan Duryea), turn up with a warrant for his arrest.  At first the townspeople can't believe it and stand by Dan, but as time goes by, they slowly start to turn on him and the mob mentality takes over.

Dan asks for two hours to prove his innocence and McCarty reluctantly says OK, thus giving this film a real time aspect as the time Dan has left is equivalent to the running time of the film.

One man against the world trying to prove his innocence. 

This film was made during the heart of the McCarthy era and that is certainly apparent in this film.  I mean, the bad guy's name is McCarty!

Westerns were my Dad's favorite film genre, probably because he wanted to be a cowboy himself.  I watched a lot of them with him and remember when westerns dominated TV back in the 50's and 60's?



I am not a huge fan of westerns, despite all of those hours watching them with my Dad.  I am not sure why I don't like them, because Westerns are really just soap operas or murder mysteries set in the Old West.  I think they were popular because people find them comforting to watch because they know what to expect. 

Most Westerns share the same tropes:

  • Bad guys ride into town looking for trouble
  • The Hero protects the town
  • The Hero may or may not have a dark past
  • There is always a horse chase
  • There is always a gunfight
  • There is always a hooker with the heart of gold (of course, we couldn't say hooker in those westerns of old so we called her a saloon girl)

And my favorite, which almost always happens. 

  • The girl slaps the guy.  The guy slaps her back.  She is still defiant and the guy says, "You've got spirit.  I like women with spirit!"


John Payne made a career out of straight-backed good guys while Dan Duryea made a career for himself playing sleazy bad guys, and this movie is filled with character actors you will recognize.  Women in westerns usually don't have much to do, but at least here the women are the ones who believe in our hero and who ultimately help him.

Director Allan Dwan was a Hollywood fixture, a director whose movie career spanned almost 50 years.  He directed 125 films and many of them were award-winning films such as "The Sands of Iwo Jima." 

There are 38 westerns listed in "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" and you might ask, of all of the western films out there, why is this one a movie we must see before we die?

Why it's a Must See: "[This is...director Allan Dwan's] film par excellance: concise, plain, inventive, fluid, ironic, unspectacular-but-beautiful...Thanks to the director's visual assurance...Silver Lode is one of the best of the American cinema's many underrated Westerns."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

As I often say when reviewing these older films that often have stilted acting and cliched dialogue, many of them don't stand up today, and yes, this film suffers from a bit of that, but it is also a good example of why westerns were so popular: the greatest western trope of all: good overcoming evil.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this western had a kind of noir feel to it.  I call it Western Noir - I think I just made that term up.




***The Book of the Week***






Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu (2017)



The first cookbook from the team behind the indie magazine Cherry Bombe and the Radio Cherry Bombe podcast.

The subtitle of this delightful cookbook is "Recipes and Stories from 100 of the Most Creative and Inspiring Women in Food Today," and the authors have this to say about their book:

"What makes a recipe special and truly worth your time? For us, it comes down to the person behind the recipe.  Why cook any old dish from some anonymous recipe online when you can make one from a person you love or admire?  We prefer a recipe that's the equivalent of a sweater borrowed from a girlfriend, a dog-eared book your sister lent you, or the weird knickknack that belonged to your grandmother: Dependable, interesting, nostalgia inducing, maybe even a little quirky."

Celebrity chefs, food stylists, bakers and other creative people who are part of the current food scene - all women - share their recipes in this beautiful cookbook.

Some of the contributors include:
   
  • Melissa Clark, New York Times columnist and cookbook author
  • Padma Lakshmi, star of Top Chef
  • Elisabeth Prueitt, pastry chef and co-founder of Tartine and Tartine Manufactory 
  • Chrissy Teigen, supermodel and bestselling cookbook author
  • Renee Erickson, Seattle celebrity chef
  • Joy Wilson, of Joy the Baker

Here is a taste of a few of the recipes I can't wait to try:

  • Nonna Grazia's Pasta E Piselli (Grandma's Pasta & Peas) - Claudia Ficca
        Who doesn't love a creamy pasta with peas?
         What I want to know is this: if Chrissy Teigen likes to eat as much as
         she says she does, how does she stay so slim?
         Ditto for Padma!
        Renee is a local Seattle chef with some amazingly successful restaurants,
        so glad she is included here.
        I LOVE a good curry!
         I LOVE a good pie!
        I LOVE a great drinky winky!
And I LOVE that this book celebrates women!

The book is beautifully illustrated and would be a welcome addition to any cookbook collection.
  
Rosy the Reviewer says...this cookbook is da bombe!



Thanks for reading!

 


See you next Friday 


for my review of  




"Murder on the Orient Express"  


 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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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 




Friday, November 10, 2017

"A Bad Moms Christmas" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "A Bad Moms Christmas" as well as DVDs "Lady Macbeth" and "Amreeka."  The Book of the Week is "Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Kenneth Anger's underground film "Scorpio Rising."]





A Bad Moms Christmas


"Bad Moms" Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn are back, but this time they not only have Christmas to deal with, they also have to deal with their own Moms and you might ask yourself, who really are the "Bad Moms" this time around?

Well, you might ask yourself that if you really cared because speaking of bad, this movie is a prime example of why I usually don't like sequels.  And I really, really don't like bad sequels.

Here is my definition of a bad sequel:

Start with a little film that was a charming surprise hit, a warm reminder of the difficulties of motherhood with just the right amount of fun and sentimentality...

 -- and then ruin it by rushing another one into production as soon as possible using the exact same plot (underappreciated and stressed out Moms) and the exact same jokes (except this time make them raunchier and less funny) and then throw in Christmas and more dysfunctional mothers.

If three Bad Moms are funny, six Bad Moms would be even funnier, right?  Wrong! 

When we left Amy (Kunis), Kiki (Bell) and Carla (Hahn), they had just finished dealing with the Mean Moms of the PTA who had been so judgmental and made their lives a misery. They decided they would no longer stress themselves out trying to live up to the standard of perfection expected of Good Moms, but rather do the best they could and try to be happy with that, which they ultimately did. The film was funny and sweet and I enjoyed it.

Now this second time around, Amy is divorced (remember, her husband cheated on her) and has a boyfriend, Jessie (Jay Hernandez) but is still stressed  out because Christmas is coming and Christmas is a particularly stressful time for Moms, right?  Kiki has managed to keep her controlling husband, Kent (Lyle Brocato), in check and Carla is...well, still Carla, except now she works in a beauty salon where her specialite is waxing, especially down there where the sun don't shine.  I only bring that up because that is a particular motif that we are beaten over the head with because for some particular reason the writers thought waxing peoples' private parts (and they didn't use the term private parts, either) was very, very funny.  I didn't.

So now we have Amy, Kiki and Carla getting ready for Christmas, which is stressful enough, right?  And who should show up, but their mothers!  Funny, that all three of their mothers would show up at the same time, don't you think? And funny that all three Moms are not particularly beloved by their daughters. 

Why?  

Well, Amy's Mom, Ruth (Christine Baranski) is overly-critical and expects everything to be perfect and done her way and she has no problem expressing her distaste when she doesn't like something; Kiki's Mom, Sandy (Cheryl Hines), wants to be close to Kiki - so close that she thinks its OK to sit in their bedroom while Kiki and Kent are having sex; and Carla's Mom, Isis (Susan Sarandon) is a pot-smoking hippie who likes to gamble, who Carla hasn't seen in years and who shows up in Carla's life when she needs money. She doesn't even know her own grandson's name.  Oh, and don't think her name isn't an attempted source of amusement.

As the film progresses, it becomes clear that our Bad Moms are not nearly as bad as their mothers.

So?  Does any of that sound even slightly funny to you?

I like my comedies to at least be on the edge of reality.  What makes a comedy funny is imagining yourself in the same situation as the characters, but the characters and antics in this film are so beyond the realm of reality and possibility that you are more likely to shake your head than laugh. I did a lot of head shaking.

  • For example, how likely is it that you and your friends would get drunk at the mall and get away with stealing the Christmas tree at Foot Locker during regular business hours? 
  • Or carry out lewd acts on the department store Santa Claus without anyone throwing you out? 
  • Or that you would sing carols at over 300 homes in one night to win a prize? 
  • Or that your mother doesn't know your son's name? 
  • Or that you can give your son his own baseball glove for Christmas year after year and he doesn't notice?
  • Or that a potential boyfriend would do a raunchy Chippendale style dance at the Christmas dinner when meeting you and your family for the first time?

I could go on and on but I will spare you.

But reality aside, I also expect comedies to be funny. 

This one isn't.  But maybe that's just me.

I will let you be the judge.

  • Do you think it's funny to meet the man of your dreams while waxing his privates?
  • Do you think it's funny that a woman would yell out "Put a baby in me, Santa #2!" when judging a sexy Santa contest in a bar?
  • Do you think it's funny that a camel would stroll through the living room after you and your mother have had a big brawl on Christmas Eve that results in the destruction of all of the over-the-top Christmas decorations including pulling down the Christmas tree?
OK, so now I am going to digress for a moment.

What is the deal with Christmas parties and big brawls and pulling down Christmas trees?  Remember "Office Christmas Party?"  The big brawl that results in a Christmas tree falling down is a Christmas movie cliché. What-is-the-deal with that?

Well, I think I know the answer to that question. 

Pulling down Christmas trees is a primal response to anger.  I myself have done it.  When I was putting my husband through college and discovered he was cheating on me with a 19-year-old coed I took it out on the Christmas tree too, so I totally get that.  When I was a little girl, I also remember waking up one morning and finding that our Christmas tree had mysteriously "fallen down." The tree is there as a happy reminder of the holidays, but it can also symbolize the fact that things aren't so happy, so pulling down the Christmas tree is a movie cliché for a reason.  But despite the fact I understand it, I don't find it funny and I'm sick of seeing it in Christmas movies.

So, anyway, directors and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore must have thought all of that was funny, but I didn't laugh once and no one else in the theatre laughed either. It's difficult to believe that those two also wrote the first one "Bad Moms."  The first one was funny and sweet and believable.  This one was not funny, not sweet and not believable, and the writers missed a big opportunity to explore the complicated mother/daughter relationship, something that might have turned this movie into something special instead of recycling the first movie and just giving us six Bad Moms.

However, I am not going to fault the actors. 

They all did the best they could with what they were given.  Baranski had the best lines and carried off haughty very well, though a couple of the things she said were very anti-Semitic.  I know she was supposed to be a woman who didn't approve of much, but saying something negative about Jewish people as a way to express that was cringe worthy and didn't need to be there. And I love Justin Hartley, who plays Kevin on the hit TV show "This is Us," and here plays the male stripper who meets Carla while getting his #&*@ waxed, but I hated seeing him like that. 

Wanda Sykes makes an appearance in the only scene I enjoyed, and I use the word "enjoy" loosely.  Kiki and her mother, Sandy, have sought the help of Dr. Karl, a therapist, to help them with the "how close is too close" issue.  When Sandy leaves the room, Kiki asks Dr. Karl why her mother is so crazy at which point Wanda, who up until now had been rolling her eyes at everything Sandy said, tells Kiki that going through childbirth, sleepless nights and worrying about the child for the rest of its life would turn anyone from a normal human being into a crazy person.  Let's hear it for motherhood.  We finally catch a break instead of it being the other way around - that mothers make their children crazy.  It's the children who make US crazy!  But despite my little mental "rah rah," it wasn't enough to save this movie. 

Oh, and was there a Power Walk?  Of course there was.  Sigh. 

I also found it very odd that a Christmas movie would be coming out this early (it opened before Halloween).  I couldn't help but think the filmmakers wanted to get this released before "Daddy's Home 2" comes out, a very similar Christmas film (which opens today), except it's about Dads, not Moms. However, I hope it's not really similar because I want to see that one too, and ever the optimist, I want it to be funny.  Please don't let there be a final bit of Christmas mayhem with the Christmas tree being pulled down.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you were planning on seeing this film closer to Christmas - which makes sense BECAUSE IT ISN'T EVEN THANKSGIVING YET!!!! - save your money.  It's awful.



 

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

On DVD







Lady Macbeth (2016)


A young 19th century bride who was sold into marriage to a much older husband enters into an affair with one of the workers on her country estate.

The title can be a bit confusing because this is not Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth. There is no Lady Macbeth in this film per se, except as a metaphor for murder, but this Lady Macbeth seems to be even colder than Shakespeare's Lady as she doesn't seem to mind the blood on her hands.

Katherine (Florence Pugh) is a young woman who has entered into an arranged marriage with Alexander Lester (Paul Hilton), the master of a large country estate.  They live on the estate with Alexander's father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank).  Neither of these men is very nice to Katherine, who is expected to do as she is told and stay inside the house. It is a time when women had few options, were nothing more than chattel, there to do their husband's bidding and eventually produce an heir.  However, even that last bit seems unlikely as Alexander doesn't seem to have much interest in her and appears to be impotent.  On their wedding night, he orders her to take off her clothes which she does and then he leaves her standing their naked as he goes to sleep.  Another time, he orders her to strip and then to stand facing the fall while he masturbates.  All very dark and gloomy and grim for our young Katherine.

So Katherine is young and beautiful and bored.  And we all know what happens to bored housewives.

When both Alexander and Boris must leave the estate on business, Katherine is left to her own devices and she isn't about to hang around alone in the house. Though we are initially sympathetic to Katherine's lonely and cruel circumstance, it soon becomes clear that our Katherine has gumption. She goes on long walks outside and encounters Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), one of the farm workers and the two embark on a passionate affair.  As time passes and neither Alexander nor Boris return, Sebastian takes on the role of the man of the house and the two make no effort to conceal their affair, all of it unfolding under the watchful, and disapproving eye of Anna (Naomi Ackie), Katherine's maid servant.

Katherine also doesn't mind having a drink or two or three, so when Boris returns and asks Anna to bring them wine, she tells them it is all gone.  Blaming Anna, Boris makes her get down on her hands and knees and crawl out of the room, another startling reminder of not only a woman's place in those times but the treatment of the underclass by the ruling class, especially a woman of color. And Katherine has no problem letting Anna take the blame which doesn't help their relationship nor does it make her a very likable character, and we see just what kind of a character Katherine really is when she poisons Boris and lets him die.  

And then when Alexander returns, he figures out what is going on and things take an even darker turn. This isn't just a beautifully shot British costume film, it's a beautifully shot British costume film with a bit of horror thrown in.

Do we root for Katherine to determine her own fate as a 19th century woman with few options or is she just a selfish nut job who will do anything to get what she wants?

Newcomer Florence Pugh looks very much like a young Kate Winslet and her intensity burns up the screen in this grim but exciting story based on the 19th century novella "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" by Nicolai Leskov.  But kudos to all of the actors, especially Ackie, whose performance doesn't include much dialogue but whose quiet presence is very powerful.  Directed by William Oldroyd and adapted for the screen by Alice Birch, it is a brutal depiction of the power struggle that existed between men and women and the upper and lower classes in 19th century England.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I am a sucker for these British costume dramas but this is unlike any I've seen before.  I saw the trailer for this film and was anxious to see it.  It did not disappoint. 





Amreeka (2009)


Muna, a single mother living in Palestine with her teen-aged son, immigrates to a small town in Illinois.

Muna (Nisreen Faour) is a divorced Christian Palestinian living with her teen-aged son, Fadi (Melkar Muallem), when she gets the opportunity to move to Amreeka (America in Arabic).  She works as an accountant in a bank, and every day, after picking up Fadi at school, the two must cross Left Bank Israeli checkpoints to get to their home in Bethlehem.  One day, when Muna finds out that she has been awarded a U.S. green card via the lottery system - something she and her husband had applied for when they were still together and it had taken so long to come through that Muna had forgotten about it - her son encourages her to go ahead and make the move. 

But Muna is fearful, feeling that she would merely be a visitor in the U.S. and never really feel at home.  But her son reminds her that it's better than being a prisoner in her own country, and that is brought home to her when there is an incident going through the many checkpoints and Fadi is harassed.  That did it. She makes up her mind that they will go.

Muna and Fadi arrive in the U.S. right after the start of the post-9/11 Iraq War and are greeted by her sister, her sister's physician husband, and their three children, thus the reason why Muna and Fadi end up in Illinois.  However, after a happy welcome, Muna is horrified to learn that the cookie tin she had brought from home was confiscated at customs and all of her savings had been in that cookie tin.

So now Muna must find a job, and despite her banking experience and many degrees, she can't find a banking job and ends up working at a White Castle which just to happens to be conveniently located right next door to the bank.  Muna, being a proud woman, can't admit to her sister that she is working in a hamburger joint, so every day when she is dropped off for work, she walks into the bank and then, when her sister disappears, Muna runs over to White Castle.  The bank employee and her blue-haired teenaged co-worker at White Castle befriend her and both help her carry out the ruse to much humorous effect.

Meanwhile, Muna's sister and husband are feeling the effects of the Iraq War fallout.  They are not Iraqis but we Americans haven't been very good about distinguishing who is from what country or who practices what religion, instead judging people by how they look.  Muna and her family are not Muslims; they are Christians.  They are not Iraqis, either, but Muna's brother-in-law is still losing patients, which in turn is causing them to have money problems.

Written and directed by Cherien Dabis in her directorial debut, this is a human and heart-warming depiction of what it must be like for immigrants coming to this country: having to start over, the homesickness, the different customs, language issues and of course the resulting racism. It's also a fish out of water story as Muna tries to understand how looking for a job in the U.S. works; as she encounters all of the junk food and tabloids in American supermarkets; and, of course, the prejudice aimed at people from Arab countries, especially in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq War.  Likewise, Fadi is not immune to all of this either. He is bullied at school until he finds a niche with his cousin and her friends. 

But what could be a dark and depressing story just isn't.  It's sweet and human and funny.

This is a very special film. 

All of the actors are wonderful, especially Faour, who has created a charming, lovely woman in Muna.  Muna is a real, three-dimensional character thanks to Dabas' screenplay and Faour's ability to beautifully and poignantly bring her to life.  You can't help but root for her. The screenplay also wonderfully captures the newcomer's experience in a humorous yet poignant way.  Imagine being an Arab newcomer to the U.S. after 9/11.  And yet Dabis does not just paint a one-sided picture.  In the midst of Fadi's bullying and Muna's humiliations, there are Americans who are sympathetic and understanding.

This film is not just about the immigrant experience, though.  It's about a lot of issues that everyone can relate to: coming of age, racism, pride, friendship, family, overcoming odds.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I loved this film and feel like my life is better having seen it.  That's why movies matter.





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




162 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




Scorpio Rising (1963)
(Short)

Pop hits from the late 1950's and early 1960's highlight this 30 minute underground film that glorifies the biker culture interspersed with images of Jesus and his disciples.  You have to see it for yourself.

I first knew of Kenneth Anger way before seeing any of his films.  As enthralled as I am with Hollywood celebrity gossip, it was only natural that I would be drawn to his book "Hollywood Babylon," a shocking book for its time, a time before the Internet or TMZ.  The book shared some of Hollywood's best kept sordid secrets and bizarre stories e.g. up close descriptions of Jayne Mansfield's death by decapitation in a horrible car accident or the revelation that actress Clara Bow slept with the entire USC football team.  Many of his claims have been called into question over the years, but I have to say it's a fun read if you like that kind of thing.



Described as one of America's first openly gay filmmakers, Anger worked exclusively with short "underground" films and this one is considered one of the most influential of all "underground" films.

It begins with the title of the film and the director's name spelled out in studs on the back of a leather jacket and goes on to glorify a biker gang, showing images shot mostly in a Brooklyn biker garage. It's all very fetish-inspired in a leather, abs, James Dean/Marlon Brando, swastika and gleaming chrome sort of way with one late fifties-early 60's rock song after another playing over the images. That was all fine but then came these scenes of Jesus and his disciples that looked like something out of the silent version of "King of Kings," and that's when Anger kind of lost me.  Jesus and his disciples as a biker gang?  Biker gangs mark the end of Christianity?  Not sure.

Why it's a Must See: "Without [this film], Martin Scorsese would not use pop music the way he does in Mean Streets (1973), David Lynch couldn't have found the disturbing undercurrents in Bobby Vinton's song 'Blue Velvet (which is also used here), and action movies wouldn't include homoerotic strapping-on-the-weapons montages."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Though I could definitely see the influences this film might have had on Roger Corman and other filmmakers, this is very much a niche film and an acquired taste.

Rosy the Reviewer says...there is no dialogue in this film, just the music, and what it was actually about?  Your guess is as good as mine.





***Book of the Week***






Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl by Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman (2017)



A gorgeous coffee table book that highlights the life and career of Grace Kelly.

Many people remember Princess Grace of Monaco but fewer probably remember Grace Kelly, the actress.  Authors Jorgensen and Bowman want to rectify that with this lavishly illustrated book highlighting Kelly's acting career.

Countless books have been written since her untimely death in 1982 but the authors say  "...this may be the first book ever to present the story of Grace's life as viewed through the lens of her film career," a career that included only eleven films over a six year period before she was whisked off to Monaco by Prince Rainier to become Princess Grace, but in that short time she won a Best Actress Academy Award and made three iconic films with director Alfred Hitchcock ("Dial M forMurder," "Rear Window" and "To Catch a Thief").

Speaking of Hitchcock, Grace wasn't just Hollywood's dream girl, she was his dream girl.  She fit his muse criteria: the icy blonde, and he fell madly in love with her. He was actually kind of creepy about it, because when Grace went to Monaco Hitchcock replaced her with more icy blondes: Kim Novak and then Tippi Hedren (read Tippi's book for more on that).

The details of Grace's life are here.  She grew up in a wealthy athletic Philadelphia family of overachievers.  As gorgeous as she turned out to be, growing up, she was a nearsighted quiet child who was not considered exceptionally good looking by her relatives.  Her sister, Peggy, was considered the beauty of the family, so Grace had to find other ways to stand out which led her to modeling and eventually an acting career.

As promised, this book concentrates on the films and goes year by year, giving details about the making of each one with lots of insider information (she had affairs with practically all of her leading men) and illustrated with gorgeous photos.

  • Grace's first film role was in the western "High Noon" playing Gary Cooper's wife, a strange bit of casting since Grace was young enough to be his daughter.  

  • In "Mogambo," a film she also made early in her career, she and co-star Clark Gable had a romance but when the film was finished he rejected her, though in later years he confessed he had been seriously in love with her but they had to part because he was just too old for her.

  • And in "Rear Window," when Grace first appears on the screen, we see her move in for a slow-motion kiss with Jimmy Stewart, a kiss that has become one of Hitchcock's most iconic film moments.

There are many more juicy bits about her life and her films and, the book ends with her reign as Princess Grace.

But before Princess Grace was a Princess, she was a beautiful movie star, part of The Golden Age of Hollywood, and the photographs in this book show off what a beautiful star she was. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this would make a great holiday present for anyone who loved Grace Kelly, the actress, and who still remembers and enjoys The Golden Age of Hollywood.



 
Thanks for reading!



See you next Friday 


for my review of  

 

"Daddy's Home 2"  


 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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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).