Friday, May 18, 2018

"Life of the Party" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Life of the Party" as well as DVDs "The Insult" and "In the Fade."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Nostalgia for the Light."  The Book of the Week is a novel: "The Perfect Nanny"]











Life of the Party




After 20+ years of marriage, Deeanna's husband dumps her for another woman, and instead of curling up and dying, she returns to college to finish her degree.

The day that Deeana (Melissa McCarthy) and her husband, Dan (Matt Walsh), drop off their daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), at Decatur College for her senior year, Dan asks Deeana for a divorce.  He is in love with a locally famous realtor, and not only is he leaving Deeana, but he plans to take the house as well because for some reason it's only in his name. Deeana is completely blindsided, left with nothing, and goes home to be with Mom and Dad. But she is comforted by her best friend, Christine (played by a hilarious Maya Rudolph) who likes to play racket ball drinking a wine cooler...or seven.


But after the initial shock, Deeana gets the idea that she needs to go back to college and finish her archaeology degree. Not sure where that came from, but OK.  She had quit college when she married Dan and now it's her time.  


You see, despite this set back, as in her husband leaving her for another woman and leaving her with nothing, Deeana is basically a very upbeat and bubbly woman and that's her strength, because everyone is drawn to her optimism.  However, you can imagine how Maddie feels about going to school with her mother.  Geez, I can't imagine my mother telling me she was going to enroll in my college, live in the dorm and hang out with me and my friends.  But Maddie is a better person than I and is soon not only OK with it but also introduces Deeana to her sorority sisters who think that Deeana is the greatest thing since the invention of the beer bong.  

Meanwhile, Deeana lives in the dorm with Leonor (Heidi Gardner, another SNL alum), a young goth-like woman who stays in bed most of the time and doesn't seem to ever leave her room, but Deeana manages to win her over too. Is there no one who Deeana can't win over?  Deeana even captivates Jack (Luke Benward), a young, handsome college guy who seems to prefer chardonnay to beer and older women to college coeds and they get it on.  In fact they can't get enough of each other...and that's where my "ew" factor kicked in and the film kind of lost me.

Anyway...


If you can buy the premise that a 40+ year-old-woman would return to college - the same college her daughter is attending - and that she would live in the dorm with a young roommate, that her daughter would not only be OK with her being there but actually introduce her to her sorority sisters who all think that hanging out with her Mom is the greatest...uh...then you will probably like this film.


Now, I know that I have been a big Debbie Downer lately when it's come to comedies, and that you may question my sense of humor.  I don't blame you. I am questioning my sense of humor too.


So I have decided to be positive.  I am going to list what I liked about this film first.




***What I liked***



  • I liked Melissa McCarthy

She is one of the best at physical humor and she is not afraid to do just about anything for a laugh. One of the funniest moments in the film is when Deeana piles her husband's belongings out in the backyard and when she sets them aflame it's like a bomb going off and she is knocked across the yard, legs awry and butt in the air.  I actually laughed out loud.  I couldn't believe it.  Not that she was knocked across the yard.  I couldn't believe I laughed.


  • The film celebrated female friendships.

When Deeana was dumped by her husband, the first person she went to was her best friend, Christine, played by Maya Rudolph, who is one of those ride or die friends. Though I like Melissa, her character got on my nerves a bit after awhile, but Maya was funny, the funniest thing about this film.  She is willing to really go there, if you know what I mean.


  • The film celebrates positive mother/daughter relationships.

Though Deeana's daughter, Maddie, is not initially happy about her mother attending the same college as she, she comes around, because she really loves her mother and enjoys her company.  She is also very empathetic and supportive to her mother.  I would like to feel that my daughter would have been the same way if I had gone back to school at her college and wanted to hang with her and her friends. (Right now my daughter is shivering and going "Naaaaa.")


  • There was a feminist vibe that I liked.

Well, kind of.  I like it that Deeana didn't fall apart when her husband left her and that she kind of made a new life for herself.


  • SNL members are getting gigs

In addition to Heidi Gardner and Maya Rudolph, Chris Parnell also makes an appearance as Deeana's archaeology professor.  McCarthy has had a long association with SNL so it's nice to see her paying it forward and giving these guys some jobs.  God know, actors always want to know where their next gig is coming from.

OK, now, brace yourselves.  




***Here is what I didn't like***



  • I love Melissa but her character got on my nerves after awhile.  

I am not a big fan of perpetually happy, positive people who get by in life by making the best of every situation.  I know that says more about me than the character so you will have to do with that what you will, but making the best of every situation also doesn't make for much of a story either.


  • The film wasn't that funny and nothing much happens.

I know, here I go again, but I don't think I am alone in saying that the movies McCarthy has been in that were written by her and her husband, Ben Falcone and directed by him ("Tammy," "The Boss"), are not as funny as those she has made with Paul Feig ("The Heat," "Spy").  And like I already said, there isn't much of a story either. Woman gets dumped by her husband, woman gets on with her life, end of story.  I think it's time to sever that relationship - the writing one, not the marital one.


  • The film wasn't very realistic

I mean, c'mon, what parent would go back to the same college as her daughter, live in the dorm with a young student, hang out in the sorority house where the sorority sisters just love her and then snag a really, really handsome much- younger boyfriend?  I wish.  But then what daughter would be OK with that?


  • They didn't do their homework.

OK, this may seem like a small thing, but there was one scene where Deeana is partying at a frat house and every time someone took a drink they would all yell their drinking motto.  Deeana, however, would yell something political like "Save the whales!"  However, when she yelled "Equal work for equal pay!" I went "huh?"  Isn't it "Equal pay for equal work?"  At first I thought that might be the joke but then she and everyone else yelled the same thing a second time. That kind of stuff really bothers me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...But there were more things I liked than I didn't like, so if you like Melissa McCarthy this is mostly a fun movie experience that I can mostly recommend.







***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***

(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


On DVD













The Insult (2017)






Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film last year, this film is a reminder of the tensions that not only exist between Christians and Palestinians in Lebanon but religious and racial tensions that exist around the world.

Tony (Adel Karam) is a devout Christian living in Lebanon, and he is also a devout believer in the Christian Party which doesn't approve of Palestinian refugees. But Tony lives a conventional life in Beirut. He runs a car repair shop and his wife, Shirine (Rita Hayek), is pregnant and they both look forward to getting a bigger apartment. 


But everything changes one day when Tony is watering his plants on his balcony and water runs out from the gutters and falls on some men doing work in the street.  One of those men is Yasser (Kamel El Basha), a Muslim Palestinian refugee, who is the foreman for a construction crew working for the city.  Turns out Tony's gutters are not up to code so when Yasser approaches Tony about doing something about his illegal gutters, Tony is defiant, so Yasser and his men take it upon themselves to redo Tony's gutters on their own.  However, Tony is not pleased and beats down the new gutters.  Then Yasser is not pleased with Tony's actions and responds with an expletive, so Tony goes to Yasser's boss to demand an apology.


Yasser is convinced by his boss to apologize but when he approaches Tony and tries to apologize, he hears the anti-Palestinian hate rhetoric that Tony is listening to on the radio, which is bad enough, but when Tony says "I wish Ariel Sharon had wiped you all out," that is the final straw and instead of apologizing, Yasser punches Tony in the ribs. 

So now Yasser feels he is the one who deserves an apology from Tony and so begins a series of events that leads to a trial and becomes a national cause celebre that pits Christians and those who don't want Palestinian refuges coming to their country against Palestinians.  What started as a property dispute has suddenly turned into something very big.  And this all started because one man wouldn't apologize to the other. But don't think that Tony is necessarily the bad guy in this story. 
Tony has his side of the story as we learn later in the film.  Whether we approve or not, everyone has a reason for their grudges.


Yes, this is a story that takes place in Lebanon and yes, it's about Palestinians vs. Christians but it's also a story of religious and racial hatred that can be extrapolated to what is happening today in the rest of the world. 

Written (with Joelle Touma) and directed by Ziad Doueria, this is one of those films where things go from bad to worse and then more worse.  When Samire gives birth prematurely and the baby has complications, Tony blames Yasser for the stress on his wife and it goes on and on.

Karan and El Basha are wonderful as the two men at odds caught up in a political situation that spirals out of control.

As humans, we always need someone to blame for our misfortune.  Hitler was able to get people to believe all of their problems were because of the Jews and in the Middle East for many that same kind of sentiment exists against Palestinians.  And in Europe and here in the U.S. there is a similar fervor toward refugees and immigrants.


But then there is the hatred of the group that can often be mitigated by an interaction on a personal level and that is borne out in a quiet moment at the end of the film when Yasser's car won't start.  Tony goes into car mechanic mode to help him, and you feel at that moment, that if there had not been all of that political interference, that perhaps Tony and Yasser would have been able to find some common ground.  


If you are not familiar with the political situation in Lebanon, the film can be confusing at times (and I confess I didn't), but that does not really hinder the effectiveness of this film.  However, educating yourself about what is happening there is not a bad idea, because we Americans don't seem to know much about what is happening in other countries and don't really seem to care.  And we should. 


Rosy the Reviewer says...a compelling and timely story of how religious and racial hatred can turn an insult into a war.

(In Arabic with English subtitles)












In the Fade (2017)






Katja's husband and son are killed in a bomb attack and when it doesn't look like they will get justice, she takes it upon herself to seek revenge.

Katja (Diane Kruger), her husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), and their young son, live in Hamburg amidst a growing foment of Neo Nazism.  This is of particular concern to them because Katja is married to a Turk.  One day as Katja leaves her husband and son at Nuri's office, she encounters a young woman leaving her new bicycle unattended. She says to the young woman leaving the bike that she should lock it and just then Katja's husband's office blows up and he and his son are killed.


So begins a painful odyssey for Katja as she tries to get justice for her husband and son.  


First, the police lay out all kinds of scenarios that perhaps Nuri was responsible for his own death due to some shady dealings. Yes, Nuri has a history of drug trafficking and a prison sentence but he has since gone straight and was 
working in a tax and translation office when the bomb went off.

So in addition to Katja's grief over losing her husband and son, she has to deal with the skepticism of the police and family tensions which in turn lead Katja to indulge in a bit of drug use to ease the pain. I mean, wouldn't you (she said sipping her big glass of wine)? 

It eventually comes to light that the young woman Katja saw leaving the bike and the young woman's husband were, indeed, likely suspects and known Neo Nazis, and they are brought to trial. Since Katja can identify the woman, the trial seems to be a no-brainer, but because of some shady testimony and the defense lawyer calling Katja's credibility into question because of her drug use, the two get off.  

Now Katja is forced to get justice on her own.  The last half hour of this film is very, very tense as Katja, driven by sorrow and loss, zeros in on the bad guys and they zero in on her.

Written and directed by Fatih Akin, this is another film about the hatred of a group of people, especially immigrants (see review above) and the destruction it causes.  And it is also a showcase for the talents of Diane Kruger.


Diane Kruger is a highly underrated actress.  


Though she has had a successful acting career and been in some high profile films like "Inglorious Basterds," she has mostly toiled in smaller and foreign films. She is not up there in the starry stratosphere of a Julia Roberts or a Cate Blanchett.  I wasn't expecting her in this German film and didn't even realize it was she until halfway through the film. But she is just phenomenal in this. I couldn't take my eyes off her face because it was so wordlessly expressive.  She deserves to be up there in the stratosphere, and I am happy to say that she did win the Best Actress prize at Cannes for this performance.  Well deserved.

What I love about foreign films are the human relationships and small moments that they celebrate and which are often not found in big budget American films. My one complaint is the hand-held camera which wobbled so much at times I thought I was seeing Emily Watson again in "Breaking the Waves," where people were so discombobulated by the hand-held camera some complained of nausea.  I was fine.  Thanks for asking but I needed a swig of wine to steady myself.


Like "The Insult (see review above)," this film shows how those who survive hate crimes and genocide often take on that hatred themselves thus continuing the cycle of fear, violence and hatred that started it all. The film ends with an epilogue of the number of hate crimes occurring today in Germany.


Rosy the Reviewer says...A sad commentary on the burgeoning Nazi movement in Germany but a reminder that we have these same kinds of Nationalistic and anti-immigration issues here in the U.S.

(In German with English subtitles)






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





143 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?










Nostalgia for the Light (2010)








A documentary that pairs astronomers looking for clues to the history of the universe in the Atacama Desert in Chile with women looking for the remains of loved ones killed by the brutal Pinochet regime.

This film is all about what is happening up in space vs. what is happening down here on earth.  Two distinct activities are taking place in the Atacama Desert in this beautifully photographed documentary where astronomers look to the heavens while relatives of victims of Pinochet's brutal regime search the earth in hopes of finding the bones of their loved ones.


The filmmaker, Patricio Guzman, narrates and discusses his love of astronomy and how as a young boy he wanted to be an astronomer.  He also talks about how peaceful Chile was when he was a boy before "the troubles."  That was when General Augusto Pinochet toppled the elected government in 1973, and, ever since, Guzman has turned his hand to filmmaking and dedicating himself to recording the atrocities committed by Pinochet against all who opposed him.  


The Atacama Desert has no humidity, the only place on earth, and is the closest thing we have to the moon, so scientists came from all over to study the stars there but then came the coup and the desert became the home of Chacabuco, Pinochet's concentration camp where 30,000 dissenters were tortured and killed. In the midst of the beauty of the universe there is the ugliness of what humans do to each other.  


And the desert was also the burial ground for those dissidents  - the people Pinochet "disappeared," so the astronomers share the desert with the women who have returned over and over for the last almost 30 years to try to find the remains of their families.  The astronomers search for the origin of the past; these women are searching for their past.  The astronomers are searching for celestial bodies; the women are searching for human bodies.


The images shown in this film are both beautiful and horrifying.  One woman describes finding her brother's foot and feeling "reunited." One woman gazing at the large telescopes says wistfully, "I wish the telescopes didn't just look into the sky but into the earth so that we can find them." But in the end one woman is very pragmatic as she realizes that it's all part of the cycle of life and of the universe because she believes that nothing really comes to an end.


"Those who have a memory are able to live in the fragile moment.  Those who have none don't live anywhere."


Why it's a Must See: "Guzman's film celebrates mankind's scientific advances, but suggests that such progression is redundant if we fail in our humanity."

---"1001 Movies We Must See Before We Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen but also some of the most disturbing.

(In Spanish with English subtitles)










***The Book of the Week***







The Perfect Nanny: A Novel by Leila Slimani






Every parent's nightmare!

The perfect nanny is not every parent's nightmare but a nanny who seems perfect who ends up killing your kids certainly is. 


This book seems to be ripped from the headlines as a New York City nanny did, indeed, murder her charges back in October 2012 except this is a fictionalized version taking place in France.

Myriam is a French-Moroccan lawyer who has been staying home with her two young children, but when she is offered a job in a law firm she can't pass it up.  So she and her husband Paul look for the perfect nanny.


Paul has it all worked out:


"No illegal immigrants, agreed? For a cleaning lady or a decorator, it doesn't bother me.  Those people have to work, after all.  But to look after the little ones, it's too dangerous.  I don't want someone who'd be afraid to call the police or go to the hospital if there was a problem.  Apart from that...not too old, no veils and no smokers.  The important thing is that she's energetic and available.  That she works so we can work."


So when Myriam and Paul interview Louise, a quiet, polite woman who meets their criteria, they are thrilled.  She sings to the children, hosts children's parties for them, stays late when needed and even cleans their apartment.


And that's all they need to know.  They don't need to know the sad, lonely life that Louise lives when she is not with them.  She is their nanny and how she treats them and their children is all they care about. They don't know what is going on in her mind and the murderous thoughts that slowly start to haunt her.


This is a fast read - you can do it in one sitting - that attempts to understand how such a thing could happen.  Not sure the book was successful in that, but it did bring home the point - how much do we really know about the personal lives of people who work for us - what they are going through, what they think, how they feel? - and how much do we really care?  And what role does class, power and race play when things go terribly wrong?


Rosy the Reviewer says...if you have a nanny or are planning on getting one, you probably shouldn't read this book!




Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 


"Fishbowl California"


 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). 


Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

Friday, May 11, 2018

"Tully" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Tully" as well as DVDs "Winchester" and "Flatliners."  The Book of the Week is "Meghan: A Hollywood Princess," just in time for the Royal Wedding.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Story of a Cheat."




Tully


The mother of two young children and a newborn is having trouble coping so she hires a night nanny who ends up not just taking care of the baby but of her too.

Marlo (Charlize Theron) is pregnant with her third child and she is already struggling with the two children she already has, an eleven-year-old aughter, Sarah (Lia Frankland), and an autistic six-year-old, named Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), though no one will say the word "autistic." "Quirky" is what Marlo's husband and the principal of Jonah's school like to say.  But the truth of the matter is that young Jonah needs a lot of special attention and is not above throwing tantrums on the way to school by kicking the back of Marlo's seat or having a meltdown if she doesn't park in a particular parking lot.  Marlo is nine months pregnant and it's all down to her.  Marlo's husband, Drew (Ron Livingston) is a nice guy but kind of useless.  


Marlo's brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), is everything that Drew is not and Drew knows it.  Both men think the other doesn't like him and there is something to that. Drew is a hard-working guy with a regular job, Craig is a smug, pretentious rich guy living the high life. How pretentious is he?  Let's just say that Craig's dog's name is Prosecco, for god's sake.  Craig is married to Elyse (Elaine Tan), one of those skinny bitches who seems to have it all together and is also smug saying passive aggressively to Marlo, who is standing there sweaty and nine months pregnant, "I know the ninth month can be difficult.  I found it very hard to go to the gym."  


But despite a somewhat fractious brother/sister relationship with Marlo, Craig is well-meaning and one night when the four are having dinner together, Craig pulls Marlo aside and tells her he has bought her the services of a night nanny as a "new baby gift."  However, Marlo dismisses the offer because, one, she is not keen on having a stranger in her house, and two, does not want him to think she can't do it all, but Craig presses the phone number on her just in case she changes her mind.


And naturally once the baby is born things get much worse.  Now Marlo not only has to deal with Jonah's special needs and try not to ignore Sarah, she can't get any sleep.  Her days and nights are filled with getting up, feeding the baby, pumping out her breast milk, taking Sarah and Jonah to school and fixing meals, over and over again. Did I say that Drew was pretty useless?  Like I said, he is a nice guy but he is at work all day and can't very well get up in the night to breast feed the baby.  But he's also a guy and, no offense guys, but when it comes to babies, most of you are pretty useless, right?


When Jonah is kicked out of his school because they just can't handle him and Marlo finds herself having a screaming meltdown in the school parking lot, she decides maybe it is time to call the night nanny.


And then...there she is.  Tully (Mackenzie Davis).

Tully arrives and that changes everything.  Tully is not only there to take care of baby Mia but to take care of Marlo, too.

Marlo meets Tully, a free-spirited twenty-something who has good advice about everything.  She is compassionate and takes charge. The two become friends and Marlo's life changes for the better. She gets up in the morning to find a clean house and even some decorated cupcakes she can take to school for the kids. The women bond over sangria in an empty hot-tub and Marlo shares what she was like when she was young and didn't have a family to look after. Marlo's life is changing for the better because of Tully. However, as the movie went on, I kept wondering where the film was going.  Is this film just the story of a twenty-something Mary Poppins coming to save a harried new mother?

... and then there was the twist that I did not see coming at all and which turned this film into something else entirely.  

I always pride myself in seeing twists coming a mile away but I must either be getting old and losing my movie smarts or this was a brilliant Oscar worthy original screenplay by Diablo Cody, who also wrote "Juno"  and "Young Adult. I prefer to choose the latter.  Diablo Cody is one smart woman and deserves an Oscar nod for this screenplay.

Directed by Jason Reitman who also collaborated with Cody on "Juno" and "Young Adult," two films about the realities of teens and young adults, this film shows the realities of motherhood and no doubt represents Cody's move into another realm as she had just had her third child herself when she wrote this screenplay.

We have a tendency to glorify motherhood calling it a blessing.  No one dares to say what a nightmare it can also be.  When a woman gets pregnant she gains weight and no longer has control over her own body.  Total strangers want to touch her big stomach and have no problem passing judgments if they think the mother-to-be is doing something that isn't good for the baby. When Marlo orders a decaf at a coffee shop, a woman, or should I say, busybody, standing nearby, feels the need to remind Marlo that even decaf has some caffeine in it.  And then once the baby is born, the weight gain remains (and Theron gained 50 real pounds to play this role) and now there is the accompanying body shaming, and the lack of sleep, the baby's constant crying, the depression, the guilt, - all of this laid at the feet of the mother.  This movie shows the realities of pregnancy and motherhood. 

But don't think this film is a dirge.  It's not.  It also funny because if you don't laugh, you will cry.

As for Charlize, despite her Oscar for "Monster," she is not one of those actresses I think of right away when I think of the best actresses.  If someone asked me who I thought the best actresses of today were, I would most likely say Meryl Streep, Annette Bening or Julianne Moore.  I wouldn't automatically say Charlize Theron, and I don't know why because, like I said, she has an Oscar.  I sometimes think that the actresses who are natural and not that actressy are not thought to be great but after seeing this film I am reminded that Theron is right up there.  And despite her beauty, she is not a cream puff about her roles either. She made herself over to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," bad teeth and all, she shaved her head to play the one-armed Furiosa in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and here she gained 50 pounds, though she still looked damn good.  Theron is right up there with the best actresses and she deserves an Oscar nod for this role.

And let's not leave out Mackenzie Davis as Tully.  She exudes a youthful New Age exuberance that is just right for the character and Ron Livingston may have been the nice but useless Drew but he plays nice and useless very well.  It was just right.  Husbands can be useless but it's often because they just don't know what to do to help their wives.

However, speaking of Oscars, films that show up this early in the year are often overlooked, and I don't think this film was marketed in the best way.  The trailers make it look like Mary Poppins shows up to solve all of the problems of a harried mother - and how exciting would that be? - not!  Sadly, I can't say more because the film does go in an unexpected direction but let's just say it is a direction that will surprise you and one that drives home the realities that mothers face. 


We expect mothers to take care of their families and to live up to some impossible motherly ideal, to be able to do it all and not complain. This film is a reminder of how important it is for us mothers to also take care of ourselves and to never let go of who we once were and who we really are just because we are mothers.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a wonderful movie with a brilliant screenplay and great performances that brings home the realities of motherhood, and it's just in time for Mother's Day.  One of my favorites of the year. Oh, and by the way, I cried at the end.  It was that good.





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

On DVD





Winchester (2018)


Did Sarah Winchester really keep building her strange mansion because the ghosts of the people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle told her to?

That's what this wannabe horror film wants us to think, but not sure where that came from because I have been to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, and I am pretty sure that I was told there that Sarah Winchester kept building her house because a medium had told her that if she stopped she would die.  I don't remember the ghosts.


But what I remember doesn't really matter if this film is a good horror film.  But, sadly, it's not.


We can all agree, though, that Sarah was a bit of a nutter.  If you don't know her story, she was the wife of William Wirt Winchester, the manufacturer of the Winchester repeating rifle and when he died Sarah inherited a vast fortune and 50% ownership of the company.  What started as an eight room house became a seven story structure with stairs that went nowhere and over 100 rooms.  It's a fun place to visit if you ever get to San Jose and some of the movie was actually filmed in the house itself, which, I am sorry to say, was the best thing about this movie.


In this fictionalized version of events, in 1906, Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is called in by the Board of Directors of the Winchester company to evaluate Sarah's (Helen Mirren) mental state because they want to have a reason to take over her shares.  However, Dr. Price is a bit of a libertine and addicted to laudanum and doesn't really want to take on this assignment, but he needs the money and off he goes to meet Sarah Winchester.  And so begins a haunted house odyssey with things that go bump in the night. 


(And I'm not kidding.  This movie is all about making you jump.  I actually kept track of the gotcha moments - 12 of them - except I didn't jump even though I knew I was supposed to).


When the doctor arrives, he meets Sarah's niece, Marion (Sarah Snood) and her weird little son, Henry (Finn Scicluna-O'Prey), and you know how much I like weird little child actors. Not! Helen Mirren may star as Sarah but she doesn't appear until 20 minutes into the film (you can tell how bored I was that I kept track of the gotcha moments and how long it took Helen to appear), but she makes a grand entrance ensconced all in black.  


Sarah tells the doctor that she is cursed and the house is haunted by the souls of the people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle and she is consumed by guilt. She must make amends. The ghosts tell her what rooms to add and she must keep doing that or die.  She must reconstruct the rooms they died in and then they can come alive again and then rest in peace...or something like that.  Naturally the good doctor sees and hears things but is it ghosts or the laudanum?  You see, the good doctor also has his own issues with guilt about his wife's death that make him kind of nutty too.

For a horror film, I found this amazingly dull despite those gotcha moments and the creepy house and despite the presence of Dame Helen and Jason Clarke. 


Mirren doesn't have much to do except walk around looking dazed and Clarke, who seems to be everywhere these days, has a story line that doesn't really go anywhere.  As a horror film, it's not, and even if this film was just going for gothic thriller, it was still zzzzz, because in the end there really isn't much of a story here.  Sarah Winchester was wacko, plain and simple, and even Dame Helen can't rise above this mess.

I mean, c'mon, one of the lines is "Fear only exists in your mind."  Duh.


Or "Conditions can be cured, Doctor.  Curses cannot."  Duh.


Directed by the Spierig Brothers (who I have never heard of) and written by them and Tom Vaughn, this film plays like a Lifetime Movie, but a bad one and that's saying a lot since Lifetime Movies are supposed to be kind of bad or so bad they are good. This film even had one of those Lifetime Movie endings. You know the kind.  The bad guy is dead...or is he?  The ghosts are all gone now...or are they? 


I actually like Lifetime Movies (check out my homage to them that I wrote a few years ago) and this movie is so bad it's almost an insult to Lifetime Movies for me to compare them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...While watching this film, I said out loud, "Dame Helen, what were you thinking?"








Flatliners (2017)



Five medical students try to experience death by stopping their hearts for short periods of time.

OK, first of all, I have some questions:

Question #1 - Who thought we needed to remake this film?  Wasn't the 1990 version starring Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt enough?


Question #2 - James Norton.  You left "Granchester" for this?


Question #3 - Where the hell has Ellen Page been all of this time and why did she surface for this film?


Question #4 - What kind of a high can you possibly get from dying?  I thought death was the ultimate downer?


Question #5 - Why is it that empty hospital corridors are so ominous?


Anyway, those are some thoughts I had while watching this film, but none of those questions really matter because if you saw the first film, even though the stories are a bit different, you don't need to see this one.  And if you didn't see the first one, you haven't really missed much either.


But for the sake of this remake and this review, I will recap the story.


Courtney (Page) is a medical student who has been studying the part of the brain that experiences near death. Courtney has somehow discovered that she can stop her heart for a short time and can experience death.  I guess everyone is searching for the answer - what happens after death?  Is there a white light? Do we see our loved ones?


Courtney gets some other medical students involved in this: Jamie, the handsome ladies man and trust fund kid; the stressed out Sophia (Kiersey Clemons); Ray (Diego Luna), a guy who looks way too old to be a medical student but we are told he was once a firefighter, which I guess is supposed to explain why he's so much older than the others; and Marlo (Nina Dobrev), the pretty one.  They all hang out in an underground bunker at the hospital.  


OK, I have another question.  How can these kids take over the basement of a hospital with all of the equipment they need to stop their hearts and no one discovers them? 

Anyway, best to not try to go too deep here.


Courtney wants to be able to experience death, map it and document it.  She asks Jimmy and Sophia to stop her heart for one minute and then bring her back.  Wouldn't you know, when she dies she experiences the life she really wants and when they bring her back she seems to have more energy and mind power.  Now they all think she is on to something and they all want to try it.


"It's like her brain has been rewired."


But...don't count your chickens, guys, or should I say brain waves....there are some side effects.


Their competitive natures have them trying to stay dead longer which is not a good idea.  Turns out they all have "demons," in their past. For example, Courtney's little sister was killed in a car crash and Courtney feels responsible for her death.  All of the students have things in their past that haunt them and now those demons have come to life in flashbacks and hallucinations.  Kind of like an LSD flashback (not that I would know what those are).  So now the kids have to find out how to stop them.


I guess the message here is take responsibility for your past actions.  Yawn.


Directed by Niels Arden Oplev with a screenplay by Peter Filardi and Ben Ripley, this film interested me for the first hour but then my mind started to wander and I started to want someone to actually die.  I know, that was bad.


It's funny that Kiefer Sutherland is also in this one as a sort of homage to the first film, I guess, but this time as a doctor.  He overacts like mad and looks and acts like a mad scientist.  Perhaps that was his way to show he didn't really approve of this film either.


Rosy the Reviewer says...another "scary movie" that's not scary and you know how I feel about remakes - this is one I certainly didn't hear people clamoring for.







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


144 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




The Story of a Cheat (1936)


It's all about a charming scoundrel.

Sacha Guitry, who wrote, directed and starred in this film about The Cheat, a man who learned early that dishonesty pays, was a poet, a comedian, a playwright, actor and filmmaker who produced more than 100 plays and 32 movies.

It's a film within a film as the now 54-year-old Cheat narrates and reflects on his life as he writes his memoirs in a cafe.


At the age of 12, the young Cheat is caught stealing money from the family grocery shop, and as punishment, is not allowed to eat dinner, a lovely meal of mushrooms.  However, the mushrooms turn out to be poisonous and his family all die. His mother's cousin takes him in and uses his inheritance for his own benefit showing the young man early that dishonesty pays.

He runs away and works at various jobs, such as doorman and hotel bellhop and eventually a croupier in Monaco. He actually tries to be honest but is drawn into nefarious enterprises. In Paris, he is drawn into a plot to assassinate the visiting Czar, and he meets up with a woman who tries to get him to help her cheat the casino. Later, the Cheat is picked up by a beautiful woman in a restaurant who turns out to be jewel thief. All of these schemes end in failure until after several other jobs of a dubious nature and some humorous adventures, he is finally able to go straight.

The film acts like a silent film because in lieu of dialogue Guitry uses his narration as dialogue while the characters mouth their lines. It's almost as if the actors are Guitry's puppets. It sounds strange but Guitry's tales, observations and bon mots as his character moves through his dishonest life are so charming it will draw you in.

Why it's a Must See: "Widely regarded as Sacha Guitry's masterpiece..."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Despite the film being over 80 years old, it was quite charming and au courant.

(b & w, in French with English subtitles)



***Book of the Week***





Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton (2018)


Just in time for the May 19th wedding.  Everything you didn't know about Meghan Markle.

If you are a royal watcher, like I am, you already have your fascinator and your teacup ready for the Royal Wedding.  I got up to watch Charles and Diana get married and I am not going to miss this one.  I just hope it has a happier ending than Charles and Diana.





I think it will. 

Meghan and Harry are both mature people who seem to have figured out what they want out of life and that started early for Meghan.  Meghan's choice of quote for her high school yearbook was from Eleanor Roosevelt: "Women are like teabags; they don't realize how strong they are until they're in hot water."  That tells you a lot about Ms. Markle even from a very young age. 

And things have changed within the British Royal family.

As Morton writes:


"When the American actor Rachel Meghan Markle walks down the aisle at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018, she will be making history.  In the last important royal wedding for a generation, Prince Harry's glamorous bride will be the first biracial divorcee ever to marry a member of the British royal family.  Their union, blessed by Her Majesty the Queen, will make the monarchy seem more inclusive and relevant in an ever-changing world."


And this is all really huge. 


It's no longer necessary for a Prince to marry a virgin (Diana) and even a divorcee is not off limits these days, though when Edward VIII tried to marry the woman he loved, a divorcee, it caused a constitutional crisis and he had to abdicate. Likewise Princess Margaret had to give up the love of her life because Group Captain Peter Townsend was a divorced man. And the fact that Meghan Markle is also biracial is another milestone in the Royal Family bringing themselves into the 21st century.

If you may remember, Andrew Morton also wrote "Diana, Her True Story," which really was Diana's true story as she was secretly feeding him information about what was happening behind the palace walls and within her marriage, and it blew the lid off of the fairy tale marriage of Charles and Diana. Since then he has chronicled the Royals for most of his career (though he has also written biographies about celebrities as well), most recently "Wallis in Love," the story of Wallis Warfield Simpson and her aforementioned love affair with Edward VIII and his subsequent abdication. 


Here Morton presents a thorough and well-balanced look at the life of Meghan Markle, the future Duchess.

I was surprised how much I did not know about Ms. Markle.


  • She was high school homecoming queen
  • Her parents divorced when she was two
  • Her family nickname was "Flower.
  • Her advocacy started young. At age 11, she found a Procter and Gamble TV ad for dish soap to be sexist ("Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans") and wrote letters of protest, not just to P & G but to Hillary Clinton and others.  She thought the ad should say "People all over America..."  She heard from Hillary but not from P & G but soon after the ad was changed to "People all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans." 
  • Her Dad was an Emmy-award winning lighting director for TV shows ("General Hospital," "Married With Children") and Meghan often hung out on the "Married with Children" set
  • She has a B.A. in international relations from Northwestern University
  • She is a goodwill ambassador for the UN
  • She was a suitcase model on "Deal or No Deal"
  • She is a skilled calligrapher and addressed the envelopes for Robin Thicke's and Paula Patton's wedding invitations (hey, it's not easy being an aspiring actress!  You have to make money where you can!)
  • She made five pilots before finally landing her recurring role in "Suits"

But apart from the facts of her life, the book also gives a detailed look at the courtship - how they met, how their love blossomed, how they kept it a secret, how and when Harry proposed - all of the juicy details that we Royal Watchers really want!

So I will be glued to the TV to watch the Royal Wedding with my fascinator perched atop my head, my tea cup with my pinky sticking out, and Hubby at my side because May 19th is also the day WE were married and it's been a (mostly) happy 34 years. 




I can only wish Meghan and Harry the same.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a must-read for Royal Watchers and anyone who wants to know more about the future Duchess.



Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 


"Life of the Party"

 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). 


Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.