Friday, January 19, 2018

"The Greatest Showman" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "The Greatest Showman" as well as DVDs "Battle of the Sexes" and "Friend Request."  The Book of the Week is "The Futilitarians" by Anne Gisleson.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Vittorio De Sica's "Umberto D."]




The Greatest Showman


A musical version of the life of P.T. Barnum with songs by the guys who brought us "La La Land."

But that is where the comparison ends.  This is no "La La Land."

Over the holidays I decided that I wanted to watch "White Christmas" starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.  I had seen it many times over the years, but had not seen it lately and was just delighted to be reminded how much I loved those old musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  It just left me feeling happy and all warm and fuzzy.  It made me wish that more musicals were being produced today so you can imagine that I was really looking forward to this film especially when I discovered the songs were written by the same guys who brought us the songs from "La La Land.  I absolutely adored "La La Land."

But sadly I found this film very disappointing.

According to this film, P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) wasn't just the guy whose name became synonymous with the circus. He also supposedly invented the term "show business," and he was a really nice guy with a rags to riches story who just wanted to entertain and make people happy.  Pretty sure he was more of a con man who exploited people to make a buck, but OK.  I can suspend disbelief.  This is a musical, after all.  I usually don't have too much trouble suspending my disbelief especially when it comes to musicals which always requires that.  I mean, how often do we break into song when telling our loved ones what we plan to do with our lives?

According to this film, Barnum started out poor but had a childhood sweetheart who believed in him, and you know about the power of love especially when it's set to music, right?  He lost his boring job as an accountant and was on his last dime when he got the idea to open a "freak show," though this film is too politically correct to call it that because this film wants to sugar coat the shadier sides of Barnum and to be about celebrating differences, which is kind of ironic when you consider Barnum had a bearded lady, the fattest man on earth, conjoined twins, etc. and exploited them and treated them like freaks by putting them on show to make money.  Despite the fact that the film tries to not go there, you can't deny that is what he did and that gave me an uncomfortable feeling while watching this film.

But getting the facts of P.T Barnum's life right wasn't particularly the problem for me here.  The problem was the movie just tried too damn hard.  It had too much of that "let's put on a show and save the farm" feel.  That worked in "White Christmas," but it didn't work here.  And when I say trying too hard that 
is actually my way of saying that Hugh was trying too hard. I know Hugh Jackman is a Broadway musical kind of guy (except for when he is Wolverine) but geez.  What works on Broadway doesn't necessarily work on film.  If you have seen him on talk shows recently promoting this film, he seems like a very nice, genuine guy, but he is just always ON and this film is no exception.  He wore me out.

I could forgive this film because of the handsomeness that is Zac Ephron.  I never get tired of looking at him but then it hits me...he's not a very good actor.  He is fine in comedies like "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" and the "Neighbors" franchise, but when it comes to dramatic acting, which he is required to do here, his lack of skills comes out. 

Michelle Williams, who was wonderful in "All the Money in the World (see last week's review)" has absolutely nothing to do here except sing a little and act supportive and comforting to P.T./Hugh when he's feeling down.  She's the kind of wife that even when he ditches her and runs off with Jenny Lind, she forgives him.

And speaking of Jenny Lind.  I am assuming that the writers and director didn't think we would know who Jenny Lind was considering they had her singing what could only be called a 21st century pop song when in fact she was a 19th century OPERA star!  I know this is a 21st century musical but can we at least have an opera singer sing an operatic song?

And the songs by the "La La Land" guys, John Debney and Benj Pasek -  Sorry, guys, not memorable this time, though I enjoyed the opening sequence with the young Barnum (Ellis Rubin) and the young Charity (Skylar Dunn) singing "A Million Dreams."

Directed by Michael Gracey with a screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon, this film is doing well at the box office which tells me people are thirsting for wholesome entertaining musicals that the whole family can enjoy.  This is certainly wholesome family entertainment (if you don't think too hard about the real life of P.T. Barnum), but somehow it left out the entertaining part. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...I really wanted to love this but I didn't.  I didn't even like it.



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

On DVD







Battle of the Sexes (2017)



A dramatized version of the 1973 tennis match between the then top-rated female tennis player, Billie Jean King, and ex-champ and much older hustler, Bobby Riggs.

If I'm already not a fan of Steve Carell, will his playing a famous chauvinist pig help?  No.

Though I was around when this so-called "Battle of the Sexes" match came down, and it was a big deal because it was at the height of the Women's Liberation Movement and Bobby Riggs was the epitome of male chauvinism, I wonder who remembers this today.  However, I do. From a personal standpoint, my older sister was a tennis professional and a big fan of Billie Jean King's, so I remember this vividly, but I can't help but wonder if anyone cares about this anymore except possibly tennis fans and those of us who lived it.

To give you a little background, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) was the top-rated female tennis player in the 70's, but there was a huge inequity in the amount of prize money women tennis players could earn from their tournaments compared to the men.  The men made eight times as much.  Billie Jean appealed to Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) at the then U.S. Lawn Tennis Association (now the U.S. Tennis Association) and when she was told that the men needed to earn more because they were the breadwinners for their families (yawn) and that men's tournaments were better attended and just more exciting than the women's, Billie Jean decided to leave the U.S.L.T.A. and form her own Women's Tennis Association.  She did and it was backed by Virginia Slims cigarettes (Remember "You've come a long way, baby?").

Then there was Bobby Riggs.  He was a top-rated men's tennis player back in the day, but was now in his 50's and working a boring desk job for his father-in-law.  He also had a wee bit of a gambling problem.  Let's just say he was a hustler and it wasn't helping his marriage any (his wife is played by Elizabeth Shue - I wondered what happened to her). He was a washed up tennis player who made a few bucks playing his friends for money with one hand behind his back or holding two dogs on a leash.  

But Billie Jean's winning the Grand Slam, her fame and her feminism gave Riggs the idea to have a tournament between him and Billie Jean to prove once and for all that men could outplay women, and of course, so he could also make a few bucks. However, Billie Jean refused so, when up-and-coming Australian player, Margaret Court, beat her, Riggs approached Court.  She consented to a tournament, only to be humiliated by Riggs. He said that women players couldn't handle the pressures of the game and that's why they shouldn't earn as much as men.  He even went so far as to put out a challenge - $100,000 to any woman who could beat him. That did it. Billie Jean couldn't stand the idea that Riggs could gloat about the inferiority of women tennis players.  

So Billy Jean decided she had to play him to prove that a woman can beat a man and the tournament became a cause celebre. It was played at the Houston Astrodome and was watched by over 90 million people.

People today might have a hard time getting their heads around how important this match was in the real life battle of the sexes considering all that has happened since.  

I even thought the film was going to be corny and all rah-rah, especially since I knew the outcome but the film actually went deeper.  It certainly resonates today, considering the continuing pay inequity and sexual harassment that continues to haunt women, but the film also sensitively explores Billie Jean's burgeoning feelings about her sexuality thanks to a stellar performance by Emma Stone who just oozes vulnerability.  Though Billie Jean was married, seemingly happily so, she was starting to have feelings for women. 

In the film, Billie Jean meets Marilyn, a hair dresser, and Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough, in a very sensitive performance) gives Billie Jean a haircut in what could only be called the most sensuous scene of hair cutting I have ever seen.  The two embark on a relationship and Billie Jean has to come to terms with that side of herself.  Despite the build-up to the epic tennis match, the film is really about Billie Jean King herself, what she was going through in her personal life and her fear that it would be found out.

The film doesn't really do much to enlighten us on what made Riggs tick other than him just being a jerk with a gambling problem.  I mean, what hubris for a 55-year-old man to think he could beat a 29-year-old woman at the top of her tennis game!  But Carell does a good job with that and there is a bit of an inkling about Riggs battling ageism and feeling irrelevant.

Sarah Silverman is making a dramatic name for herself playing wise-cracking side-kicks - she's good - and I couldn't help but notice Fred Armison in a non-speaking role as Bobby's trainer - if you blink you will miss him.

Directed by Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris with a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, the film has a delightful 70's soundtrack and the tennis footage from the match is well-integrated into the film to give us an exciting finale.  Speaking of integrating footage, tennis player Rosie Casals (Natalie Morales) called the match along with Howard Cosell.  The footage of Cosell and Casalls was so good I couldn't tell if that was actual footage of Casalls and Cosell or the actress CGI's in, but I have to say, in light of the #Metoo and Times Up movements, I couldn't help but notice how discomforting it looked to see Cosell reporting while towering over Rosie with his arm tightly wrapped around her, literally talking down to her and treating her like a child.  Yuck.  Thank goodness, he wouldn't have been able to get away with that today.

The epilogue shows the real Billie Jean who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for her work on behalf of Title IX and LGBQ rights.

My one complaint about the film is that it was shot in digital and you know how I feel about that.  I don't like it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite my fears that this film wouldn't resonate in today's world, it's a powerful reminder that we actually haven't come a long way, baby.






Friend Request (2016)



A cautionary tale about accepting friend requests.

I think there was a time when Facebook was new when we all accepted every friend request we received. I think that's how so many became vulnerable to catfishing.  I still get friend requests from handsome guys in military uniforms who, when I click on their profiles, have no friends.  That tells me immediately that he's a catfish, probably some guy in a Nigerian call center. I think I must be on some list of lonely old ladies.  I never fall for it, even though I have always been a sucker for a guy in a uniform, but hey, it only takes one to say OK and those guys are off and running.

However, this film isn't about lonely old ladies.  It's actually about Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey), a very popular young college girl with over 800 friends on Facebook (though Facebook is not actually named in the film), who was just trying to be nice when she friended Marina (Liesl Ahlers), an outcast girl in one of her classes.  We know that Marina  is an outcast because she wears a hoodie with the hood up, doesn't say much and draws witchy art on her page. Unfortunately Marina is also a bit of a nutter and got carried away (Laura is her only friend) and started bombarding Laura with PM's and liking and commenting on every post that Laura put out.  Laura is not a mean girl but she eventually gets a bit weirded out by Marina, and when Laura excludes Marina from a party, Marina goes off on her.  Soooo Laura unfriends her. Uh-oh. 

Now we have a girl-stalking-girl movie, that is, until Marina hangs herself live online, it gets posted on Laura's page and Laura can't get rid of it.  The video also somehow goes viral and turns up on her friends pages as if it's coming from Laura.  Now everyone thinks Laura is twisted so they start unfriending HER.  Laura can't delete the video, can't unfriend Marina, can't get rid of that damn video and can't delete her account.  

And if that's not bad enough, Laura's friends start dying.

Did Marina really kill herself?  And why can't anybody delete those posts that keep appearing?  Who was Marina?  And what are Black Mirror Cults?

This is a perfectly good thriller/horror film starring young unknowns that I call "Horror Light."  I like the occasional horror film, but I lean toward the Lifetime  Movie type horror film or films like "It" or "Split," not gory ones like "Jigsaw" or "Hostel," hence my "light" appellation.  "Horror Light" still employs the usual horror tropes but is not so gory and brutal as to leave you speechless.  "Horror Light" includes the kind of horror films where things go bump in the night, images flash on the screen to make you jump, ominous music plays when our heroine opens a refrigerator door and when she closes it someone is standing there, or she goes down a dark hall even though the light switch doesn't work, or someone says, "Did you check the basement?" These are all opportunities for you to shout at the screen, "Don't go down there!"  If the movie is too graphic and gory and you are left speechless, you can participate or you might have your hands over your eyes and what fun is that?

And actually, this film, directed by Simon Verhoeven (screenplay by Verhoevan, Matthew Ballen and Philip Koch) is more silly than scary, though it makes a statement about technology, or at least I think that's what it was doing. It seems that bad things happen when people look at their computer screens too long, so I kept yelling at the TV: STOP LOOKING AT YOUR COMPUTER!  But you know in this day and age, telling young people to stop looking at their computer is like telling them to stop breathing.

Rosy the Reviewer says...moral of the story:  Be careful who you friend - and if you stare at your computer long enough you might be communicating with demons...but, geez, we already knew that! 




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




159 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Umberto D. (1952)


An old man who lives alone with his little dog struggles to live on his small pension in Rome.

Umberto D. (Carlo Battisti) is a lonely old man living in an apartment he can't afford.  He worked for the government for 30 years but his pension doesn't cover his living expenses. His landlady is disrespectful, threatens to throw him out and even rents out his apartment by the hour to illicit lovers when he is not home.  His only companion and source of comfort is his little dog, Flike, and Maria (Maria Pia Casillio), a young girl who is the cleaner for the building, is the only human who is kind to him.  He can't pay his rent and is so desperate he fakes an illness so he can go to the hospital to get some sleep and food.  When he returns, the house is being renovated, his room is all torn up and little Flike has run away.  They are eventually reunited but Umberto is desperate and decides to kill himself.

This film shows that no matter what country you are in or time period - even 66 years later (this film was released in 1952) - some things never change.  We still don't respect or care for the elderly.  Old people become invisible.  It's a cruel world for seniors with little money.

Director Vittorio De Sica, an early proponent of the Italian Neorealism Movement, who also directed the highly acclaimed film "The Bicycle Thief," has captured the world of the old and forgotten in this story of an old man's desperation, and 66 years later it still resonates today.  De Sica avoids any sentimentality in a story that could easily fall into that trap, especially when one of the stars is a darling little dog.

And it still resonates with me. I can't stop thinking about it.  I loved it.

Neorealism was an Italian movement that started during WW II and continued through the 50's.  One of the tenets was that films should embody everyday life and the characters should be played by non-professionals. "Umberto D" is one of the most successful demonstrations of that theory, and it is amazing that Umberto is played by a 70-year-old university lecturer who had not acted before.

Battisti has a face that just demands empathy, and Maria Pia Casillio was delightful and looked like a young Debbie Reynolds.  And Flike?  What can I say.  He was so adorable I am calling my little dog Flike.

Why it's a Must See: "With it's unapologetic tragic story of an old man's despair and love for his pet, and its pointed observations of social injustice, [this film] provides the perfect opportunity for the viewer to consider this question...De Sica leaves us wondering whether Umberto's love for his dog, who depends on him alone, is redemptory or futile."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I choose to think that little Flike was redemptory and gave Umberto something to live for.  Dogs are like that.

Rosy the Reviewer says...as part of my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project," I have to watch a lot of films that I sometimes don't really enjoy but all of that is worth it to discover a gem of a film like this. This film will stay with you.
(b & w, in Italian with English subtitles)




***Book of the Week***





The Futilitarians:  Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Reading, and Grieving by Anne Gisleson (2017)



A search for meaning in the face of tragedy and grief.

Anne Gisleson knows tragedy.  Her twin sisters killed themselves a year apart, she had to flee from Hurricane Katrina, and her beloved father died of cancer. Anne's husband, Brad, was a widower and had also had his share of heartbreak.

Anne and Brad wanted to make sense of all of that and, realizing that their friends had their own issues, came up with the idea of the Existential Crisis Reading Group, which they jokingly dubbed "The Futilitarians." From Epicurus to Tolstoy, from Cheever to the Bible, each month they read and talked about the meaning of existence in post-Katrina New Orleans.


Anne's father had forbade her to ever write about the deaths of her twin sisters, but now that her father was gone, Anne felt she could take on that task so this book is part-memoir and part existential musings but mostly it's about how talking about great literature and philosophy can help you understand life and its many challenges.

Epicurus wrote (and no, it's not about food) in "The Importance of Studying Philosophy:

"So, both for young and old, it is imperative to take up the study of philosophy.  For the old, so that they may stay youthful even as they are growing older by contemplating the good things of life and the richness of bygone events. And, for the young, so that they may be like those who are advanced in age in being fearless in the face of what is yet to come."

Rosy the Reviewer says...an interesting story with a message: literature can heal.


Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday 


for my review of 


"I, Tonya"



 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, January 12, 2018

"All the Money in the World" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "All the Money in the World" as well as DVDs "War for the Planet of the Apes" and "Atomic Blonde."  The Book of the Week is "Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Nightmare of Elm Street."]




All the Money in the World


Dramatization of the 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, the grandson of J. Paul Getty, then the richest man in the world.

People might be more familiar with the scandal surrounding the making of this movie than the name J. Paul Getty.  Kevin Spacey was slated to play Getty, who was not only the richest man in the world in the 1970's, he was the richest man EVER.  The kidnapping of his grandson, J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) for a $17 million dollar ransom was a news sensation in 1973 and the centerpiece of this film.  But the allegations of sexual assault against Kevin Spacey led to his being fired from this movie after being featured in the trailers and only a month before its release and 88-year old Christopher Plummer (no relation to Charlie) stepped in at the last minute.  Spacey was edited out and Plummer edited in as if Spacey had never been there. And seeing this film, ironically, it's difficult to imagine anyone else besides Plummer playing Getty, especially comparing Spacey in the original trailer and his over-the-top make-up to Plummer, himself who in reality is much closer in age to what Getty would have been.

J. Paul Getty made his money from oil.  Everyone seemed to know there was oil in Saudi Arabia but nobody could figure out how to get it.  But Getty did.  He made a deal with the Bedouins and discovered oil there four years later. But then how to get the oil out of Saudi Arabia so that he could sell it?  Getty invented the supertanker.  And that, folks, is how you become the richest man in the world.  But Getty was also a miser.  He famously had a pay phone in his house so visitors would not run up his phone bill. 

But when Italian thugs kidnapped Getty's 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III, known as Paul, they didn't know that.  They kidnapped Paul, demanded $17 million and were confounded by the fact that Getty said he wouldn't pay.  In fact at first, everyone thought Paul had engineered his own kidnapping to get some money from his grandfather, but when Paul's ear (yes, his actual ear - I will let you use your imagination) appeared at a Roman newspaper, everyone realized the kidnapping was indeed real.  But even then, the elder Getty wouldn't pay, priding himself on his deal making and not wanting to part with the cash.

Paul's mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) was divorced from Getty's son who was a failure and had given his life over to drugs, drink and general hedonism.  When they divorced she had given up any claim to Getty's money in return for custody of her children so when the kidnappers contacted her, she had no means to pay them so the film concentrates on Gail's frantic attempt to get the miserly Getty to pay and to save her son.

Directed by Ridley Scott (with a screenplay by David Scarpa adapted from the book "Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty" by John Pearson), this is a smaller film than we are used to from Scott, who famously directed "Blade Runner (the first one)," "Gladiator" and more recently "The Martian," but Scott shows his skills in his ability to reshoot and edit Plummer into the film at the very last minute as well as his evocation of 70's Europe. But the film is not just a biopic but a thriller and a film with a message - a reminder that all the money in the world can't buy happiness.  Money also can cause people to do bad things.

The film focuses on Williams as the mother desperately trying to save her son, and she is reliably good and gets the most screen time, but Plummer has been at this game longer and just steals the show as the misanthropic and miserly Getty who, disappointed by people, only finds comfort in beautiful objects and dies miserable and alone. It's also nice to see Mark Wahlberg playing a straight dramatic role as Fletcher Chase, the ex-CIA agent the elder Getty hires to find Paul, instead of his usual action heroes fighting transformers or oil rigs.

Speaking of Wahlberg, did you hear about the big flap concerning how much money Wahlberg received to do the reshoots versus what Michelle Williams received? - something like 1000 times more - and Williams was the star!  So I guess Ridley Scott not only suffers from gender discrimination but didn't seem to learn from his own movie - you know, that part about money making people do bad things.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a compelling story with a performance by Plummer that deserves a Best Actor Oscar nomination.





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

On DVD







War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)



Number three in the Planet of the Apes prequels.

This is the third in the prequel trilogy which began with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," where the genius ape, Caesar, was created and a Simian flu killed most of humanity.  That was followed by "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," where Caesar and his ape friends try to get along with the few remaining humans. However, Koba, a rogue ape, attacked some humans, which in turn caused a war, so now with film #3 the war continues 

However, you don't need to have seen the first two to enjoy this one, because this film does a good job with an introduction that brings you up-to-date but if you haven't seen the original film - and I'm talking about the 1968 film starring Charlton Heston - you absolutely must see that one.  That one is the inspiration for the three films that followed so that you would understand what happened before Charlton came along.

As film #3 begins, Caesar (Andy Serkis), the leader of the apes, is trying to save himself and his fellow apes who are being hunted by the mean old colonel (Woody Harrelson) who had found Caesar's command center and killed Caesar's wife and child.  But the Colonel is not just mean, he's crazy.  The Colonel believes that the Simian flu has mutated and is turning people into apes, so he is bent on wiping out the apes.  But the Colonel is also a rogue and an army is on its way to arrest him, so he is building a wall and getting ready to fight them off so he can continue his genocide on the apes. He says that if they lose against the apes, the world will become a planet of apes.  Get it?

Since the Colonel and his men have found Caesar's secret command center, Caesar leaves the camp so that his followers can escape and find refuge somewhere else while at the same time seeking revenge on the Colonel because he killed his wife and son.  So with two trusted soldiers, Maurice (Karin Konoval), the wise Orangutan and Caesar's right-hand-man and the gorilla, Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), Caesar goes after the Colonel.  Along the way they encounter and join forces with "Bad Ape (Steve Zahn)," a scared, formerly abused zoo chimpanzee who believes that's his name (I don't even want to think about what he went through to get that name) and a young girl who can't speak who they name Nova (Amiaha Miller).  Unfortunately, Caesar gets captured and is put in a work camp overseen by the Colonel and forced to work on building that wall.  His motley crew now must save Caesar.

The best thing about these movies is Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar and who despite all of that ape make-up is still able to evoke drama and pathos.  Some people have said he deserves a Oscar nomination for his performance and he is very good.  The tender moments in the film actually got to me. Naturally, the apes are more human in a good way than the humans so this is also one of those "what makes us human" films.  It's also a tense thriller with lots of action and a dramatic story with depth and tenderness. The CGI and make-up also certainly play big roles.  I had to laugh that the ape make-up is so good that the only way to tell the girl apes from the boy apes is that the girl apes wear earrings.

Directed by Matt Reeves with a screenplay by Reeves and Mark Bombackthis is a great action film that pays homage to war films, most notably "Apocalypse Now" with Woody Harrelson seeming to channel Brando's Colonel Kurtz.

Rosy the Reviewer says...You will be rooting for the apes.






Atomic Blonde (2017)



An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and to recover a list of double agents so that it doesn't fall into enemy hands.

And that undercover MI6 agent is a badass blonde named Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) who wears sexy clothes, beats guys up with her stilettos and says things like "I'm my own bitch now!"

All I could think at first while watching this film was "Why? Charlize, you are an Academy Award winning actress.  Why are you playing this part?"

But then as I got into it, I thought, "Who wouldn't want to play a beautiful stiletto-wearing badass woman who gets all of the best quips and gets to beat the crap out of the bad guys?"

It's Berlin, 1989, right before the fall of the wall.  A British secret agent has been killed and MI6 spies have been compromised.  A watch that includes a list of all of the MI6 spies has disappeared and Lorraine needs to go to Berlin and find it before it falls into the wrong hands, read: KGB, especially since the list contains the identity of Satchel, a double agent.  Her contact is David Percival (James McAvoy) who is undercover in Berlin as a skinhead.  He is a bit dodgy and has actually taken on the skinhead lifestyle, but Lorraine teams up with him anyway to find Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), a guy who has committed the list to memory, and get him safely out of Berlin.  There are lots of fight scenes - there is one fight scene starring Lorraine that literally goes on for 15 minutes.  Well, maybe not literally but it felt like it.  There are also car chases and the usual other spy movie stuff but there is also a very big twist at the end that I didn't see coming.

Directed by David Leitch, with a screenplay by Kurt Johnstad, the film plays like a graphic novel (and in fact it's based on the graphic novel "The Coldest City" written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart) filled with glamorous cartoon characters, but that's OK because the 80's music is terrific, the pop culture references are fun, we get to see Charlize in a series of body suits, thigh high boots and garters, and it's just a very stylish, thrilling ride.  

As over-the-top spy movies go, I actually liked this.  When I saw the trailers for this film, I originally thought it looked shallow and silly, but Charlize pulled it off.  I guess that Best Actress Academy Award Theron won was actually a testament to her acting abilities.  She had the skill to take this shallow character and make me care about her. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...unexpectedly good. 






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



160 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)



A serial killer has this penchant for killing people in their dreams.

I know, I know...I can just hear you saying, "What?  You never saw "Nightmare on Elm Street?!" No, I haven't because unlike some people I am not particularly fond of blood and guts and slasher films.  Anyway, that's the reason, but despite my fears about that kind of thing in a movie, it seems that when I do actually see it, I am often shocked at how tame the film was and wonder what all of the fuss was about.  And this one was no exception.  In fact, watching it I had a very hard time figuring out why this film is considered one of the best in the horror genre.  I know it's Wes Craven and all of that but it was really dumb.

Though Craven had already directed "The Hills Have Eyes" and "Swamp Thing," he was far from a mainstream director when he brought us Freddy Kreuger.  But the success of this film started him on the road to fame as one of our foremost horror film directors and which led to "Scream."

The basic plot features Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and her teenage friends who all live in a quiet, seemingly safe little town. When her friends start dying and Freddy starts appearing in her dreams, Nancy is convinced Freddy is the culprit.  Who is Freddy?  Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is a nightmare character who infiltrates these kids' dreams. He was originally a former child killer who was burned to death by a mob of furious Elm Street parents. I would be mad, too, if some weird guy killed my kid. Years later, he has returned from the grave obsessed with revenge on the teen offspring of those parents by getting into their subconscious and attacking them as they sleep.  If they fall asleep, they all have the same dream and get killed while they are asleep.  Once the kids figure this out, they must fight a seemingly hopeless battle to stay awake.

The film has the classic teen horror film tropes:

  • Good looking young people in skimpy attire
  • A seemingly safe middle class neighborhood where nothing bad could possibly happen
  • Cheap shots of people jumping out of the shadows that make you jump in your seat
  • Lots of fake blood
  • Killer bent on revenge
  • Teens getting killed after having sex because we know that's BAD
  • One final good girl left to fight off the forces of evil

The best thing about this film is seeing a very young Johnny Depp in his film debut before he developed all of those Johnny Depp mannerisms he has now.  The worst is Ronee Blakley as Nancy's mother.  Her performance is so flat and unemotional that she makes this film look like a zombie movie.  It is just unbelievable that nine years earlier she had been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in "Nashville."

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] creatively combined horror and humor, gothic literary motifs and slasher movie conventions, gory special effects and subtle social commentary.  And it let loose a new monster in America's pop culture: the wise-cracking, fedora-wearing teen killer, Freddy Kreuger."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I think the deeper meaning here (if there is one) is that growing up can be scary.  Or maybe it's just "Don't fall asleep!"  This film may have been something special back in 1984 but it just doesn't hold up today unless you really like campy bad acting.

Rosy the Reviewer says...OK, so now I've seen it.



***Book of the Week***





Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Jaffe (2017)


A biography of singer/songwriter, Joni Mitchell.

For all of the impact Joni's music had on my young years, especially the albums "Blue" and "For the Roses," reading this biography, I was surprised how much I didn't know about her.  I didn't know she had polio as a young girl; that she was married again after Chuck Mitchell (to a much younger man); that Prince was a huge fan of hers; or that she had such a healthy ego. I'm putting that nicely.  Suffice it to say that David Crosby said "She was about as modest as Mussollini," and that's saying a lot coming from him because he is no slouch in that department either.

She also had strong opinions. According to Yaffe, she couldn't stand Joan Baez; was disappointed in Dylan; she called Madonna "Nero;" she thought John Lennon was a mean drunk; and Jackson Browne was just mean, especially to women.  She also wouldn't give Judy Collins any props for making a hit of her song "Both Sides Now" which helped Joni become a star in her own right and she even made some snarky remarks about CSN's harmonies.

Born Roberta Joan Anderson in Alberta, Canada, Joni knew early that she was going to be someone and her belief in herself, her innate poetic talent and single-mindedness led her out of Canada to become one of the most influential singer/songwriters of our generation.

Yaffe does an excellent job of outlining Mitchell's life and career with interesting details about the making of each of her albums and how her career changed from the successes of the 1970's to some strange choices in the 80's to an inability to write in the 90's. 

She was a chain-smoker (four packs a day and a smoker since she was 9) and  in recent years suffered an aneurysm and is currently still recovering from that.

Yaffe paints a picture of Mitchell as a rather angry person with an opinion on everything and in most cases found her peers wanting.  Unlike the biography of Stevie Nicks that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago where the author gushed, Yaffe is a bit irreverent about Mitchell, which I think is healthy for a biographer, and in so doing, has created a very complete picture of Mitchell's life and career while still acknowledging her importance.  I just can't help but wonder what Mitchell's take on this would be.  I am sure she would have an opinion!

Rosy the Reviewer says...one of the best biographies I have read this year about one of the most influential singer/songwriters of my generation.



Thanks for reading!

 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of 


"The Greatest Showman"



 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.  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.