Friday, February 16, 2018

"The Shape of Water" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "The Shape of Water" as well as the DVD "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" and "A Futile and Stupid Gesture," now streaming on Netflix.  The Book of the Week is "Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors"]




The Shape of Water


A strange yet touching love story between a mute woman and an amphibious creature.

I used to go to the movies with my Dad and one of my first movie memories of a horror film was a preview for "The Creature from the Black Lagoon." I was six. My Dad always liked war movies, westerns and romantic comedies, never a horror film, but once in awhile there would be a preview of a horror film, and I vividly remember that one, a huge amphibious creature carrying a helpless woman in his arms.  I am sure there is something Freudian in my early fascination with that film but we won't go there.

However, this film does go there,, but not in a horrifying way. It pays homage to that film but this film is so much more.

It's the 1960's and Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are janitors at a mysterious research laboratory.  Elisa is a mute who lives alone in a shabby apartment over a movie theatre, but her best friend, Giles (Richard Jenkins) lives next door.  He is a fussy graphic artists who likes to spout trivia, who laments the state of the world and keeps his TV tuned to happy sit-coms like "Mr. Ed" and black and white musicals starring Betty Grable.

One day, a secret specimen arrives at the lab.  It's a human-sized amphibious beast (Doug Jones) who looks almost like a man.  His keeper is Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), who is the real beast here, a cruel guy who has it out for our creature and considers him only as "the asset." He carries around a cattle prod and seems to enjoy using it on the creature. When Elisa witnesses the sadistic treatment of the creature, her heart goes out to him and she slowly earns his trust, first by sharing her lunch of boiled eggs, playing music for him, and eventually by creating a way to communicate with him, using her sign language. 

Elisa has a mysterious past that is only hinted at but the two share the fact that they both are different and her recognition of that fact and her compassion draws her to the amphibian.  When the treatment of the creature gets to be too much, Elisa enlists Giles' help to save the creature.  When they manage to escape, Strickland makes it his mission to hunt them all down and kill them.

This film is this year's "La La Land."  Like "La La Land," it's a romantic fantasy - yes, Elisa and the creature have a thing - and it's a film that you will love or hate.  I loved "La La Land" and was shocked when others said they hated it.  I loved this film, too, and will be shocked to hear that anyone would hate it but I am sure some will because it's...um, different.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro who gave us another fantasy, "Pan's Labyrinth" and the less successful "Crimson Peak," this film has garnered 13 Oscar nominations including Best Director for Del Toro, Best Actress for Hawkins and Best Supporting nods for Spencer and Jenkins.  This is the second highest number of nominations for any film (14 is the record - "All About Eve," "Titanic" and "La La Land.")  As we all know, "La La Land" did not win "Best Picture" last year in a stunning faux pas.  This year, I think "Shape of Water" could just do it.

There is a lot going on in this film.

First, it's a romantic fantasy with Elisa falling for the sea creature and I must say, I too, found him curiously attractive.  It's also a sort of musical with a whimsical score and even a song and dance routine.  But there is a deeper undercurrent.

Giles always has his TV on, tuned to black and white musicals and many of the inane TV shows we Baby Boomers grew up with, and Giles' favorite activity is to go eat pie at a very hokey All American diner.  It's all sweet and friendly and apple pie America, until we realize that one of the reasons Giles likes to go to the pie shop is to interact with the handsome soda jerk who shows us just what a jerk he really is when he tells a black couple to get out of his shop and, realizing Giles' crush on him, orders Giles out too.

When the film took that turn, I couldn't help but think of President Trump's campaign slogan - "Make America Great Again." When he was campaigning, I kept wondering what "again" he was talking about, though it seems when people think wistfully about the good old days, they usually think of the 50's and early 60's.  So does that mean that most people want to go back to the time when The Beav and his family ruled the air waves, when Father knew best?  Do they want to relive a time when women knew their place, when there were no civil rights, no sexual revolution, no gender equality, we knew nothing about Viet Nam, we were in the throes of the Cold War, scared of "The Bomb" and gays were closeted?

This romantic fantasy is about those who are different but it also subtly shines a light on the supposed "good old days," another American romantic fantasy.

Hawkins is a marvelous British actress and is deservedly nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance. Without speaking, she expresses a thousand words with her eyes and facial expressions, an ability only the greatest actresses can pull off.  She has been nominated before (she should have been for "Maudie"), but few Americans know who she is.  I hope she is rewarded with an Oscar for her wonderful performance here and that she will become a household name, because she is just a brilliant actress. 

Octavia Spencer came to the fore in "The Help," as the feisty smart-talking no-nonsense Minnie Jackson and she has been playing that character ever since.  It seems like she gets an Oscar nomination every time she does.  I was upset she was nominated once again for playing that character in "Hidden Figures" when Taraji P. Henson did not get a nomination, since I thought Henson was the heart and soul of that film.  But I have to say that Spencer has grown on me and here shows the real depth of her acting skills.  Yes, she is still big on the quips, but she shows a real warmth and depth here that I haven't seen before.

But speaking of depth - Richard Jenkins is amazing and shows his versatility as Giles, the nervous neighbor who is Elisa's loyal friend and a gay man in a world that doesn't know he exists.

Finally, this extraordinary ensemble cast is rounded out by Michael Shannon as Strickland, who seems to embody the American Dream.  He wears a suit, drives a Caddie, lives in suburbia, reads "The Power of Positive Thinking" but he also just so happens to carry around a cattle prod and has kinky sex with his wife. He is a horror version of the American Dream, like a character out of a David Lynch film.  Shannon does evil very well but taking a look at his resume, you realize he can play just about anything.  I also have to give props to Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler AKA as "Bob," who is actually a Russian spy who has designs on the creature but who is also sympathetic toward him. 

These fully formed characters are all brought together by Del Toro's vision - the story is his as is the screenplay (with Vanessa Taylor) - and it's a beautiful tale about difference triumphing over a world of conformity and restriction, beauty and kindness transcending cruelty and bigotry.

As I said, this could be a polarizing film like "La La Land." I can understand how you might not have liked "La La Land," if you are not a fan of fantasy and couldn't get past Ryan and Emma breaking into song, but then you would have been shutting yourself off from a film that was an extraordinary homage to movie-making while at the same time reminding us that life isn't like in the movies.  Likewise, here you might have a problem with a young woman falling in love with an amphibian, but if you let that get in your way, you will miss out on a charming uplifting fantasy that has much to say about our lives now.

Rosy the Reviewer says... And the Oscar goes to....




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

On DVD  





The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)



After befriending a strange young man, a successful surgeon's life starts to fall apart and he is presented with a "Sophie's Choice."

Colin Farrell plays Steven Murphy, a heart surgeon, so to make sure we know he is a surgeon we have to endure some heart surgery up close and personal, a movie cliché I can do without. Next we see him meeting a young man in a diner.  They act like they know each other but their relationship is not clear.

Steven is also married to Anna (Nicole Kidman), herself a doctor (an opthalmologist) and they have two children, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic).  I have to say that Bob as a name for a young boy seems funny to me and speaking of funny, this film is funny and I don't mean in a comic way. I mean in a strange way. Whenever my mother expressed distaste for someone she would say he or she was "funny" as if they were somehow off.  That's how these characters appear.  For example, Steven and Anna have a sexual ritual where he says "General anesthetic?" and she wordlessly disrobes and lies on the bed as if anesthetized while he pleasures himself.  See what I mean?  Kind of funny.

We learn later that the young man is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a sixteen-year-old who seems to have some kind of nefarious hold on Steven. We think this because whenever Steven is with Martin the music is ominous and strident.  Steven invites Martin to his home and everyone talks in a very stilted and inappropriate way such as Bob asking Martin if he has hair under his arms and Kim volunteering that she started her period.  Like I said, funny...but also ominous, like something bad is going to happen.

And it does.

Martin starts stalking Steven and all of a sudden, Steven's family starts to fall ill.  Now the music is really ominous and strident, and this film becomes one of those films where a family is terrorized by someone seeking revenge.  It seems that Martin blames Steven for his father's death and wants to settle the score in a very unique and macabre way.

It took about an hour for this film to get going but once it did it was horrific.

Barry Keoghan, who also starred in "Dunkirk," is a frightening Martin just because he is so flat and emotionless and Farrell is uncharacteristically toned down and less fidgety than usual.

Written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who also wrote and directed "The Lobster," which I loved, I found this film to be less accessible.  "The Lobster" was strange and dark and quirky as is this one, but it seemed to have more heart.  This one is just strange and dark.  It also had a musical score that was very dissonant which makes sense because this film is a sort of horror film but it got on my nerves after awhile.
As for Nicole Kidman, you have to hand it to her.  She is not afraid to take on controversial roles that are not necessarily glamorous ones.  There is a scene where she kisses Martin's feet and that's when this film kind of lost me.  Like I said, these people are funny.  The whole film was kind of funny.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a dark tale about love and sacrifice that seems to say that we only sacrifice when it isn't going to hurt us too much.  And that's not so funny.



Streaming on Netflix






A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)



A docudrama and biopic about the origins of the National Lampoon and its founder, Doug Kenney.

Straight from the Sundance Film Festival and snapped up by Netflix, this film chronicles the beginnings of the National Lampoon, the humor magazine that dominated the 70's and 80's and highlights the life of Doug Kenney who started the magazine and who also brought us "Animal House," and "Caddyshack."

You have probably heard of the National Lampoon but Doug Kenney is probably not a name you recognize but he was the brains behind the edgy humor that fueled the National Lampoon.  He was also a bit of a jerk.

Narrated by Martin Mull, who plays the older version of Kenney, an interesting device considering how the film ends, the film begins with the young Kenney growing up in white bread America and then attending Harvard where he (Will Forte) meets Henry Beard (an almost unrecognizable Domhnall Gleason, who is everywhere these days), a young man who sports tweeds and pipes, the "oldest guy who was ever a teenager."  The two were both smart ass Harvard guys who were always on, ragging each other and others so they bonded and took over the Harvard Lampoon, the campus humor paper, and together wrote a Tolkien satire, "Bored of the Rings."

Henry was going to go to law school after graduation but the success of the Harvard Lampoon gave Kenney the idea that together they could launch a national humor magazine so Henry forgoes law school and the two approach magazine publishers to no avail until they talk to someone at...wait for it... "Weight Watchers."  You can't make this up, and how appropriate and yes, funny, that an edgy humor magazine would be funded by one of the publishers of "Weight Watchers Magazine."  So funded, the two go about hiring writers and the first was Michael O'Donoghue (Thomas Lennon), who became one of the main writers on SNL and wrote some of the strangest sketches.  If the sketch was very, very dark and very, very out there, it was usually by O'Donoghue.  Kenney and Beard gathered other subversive comedy writers (many who went on to work at SNL) and started putting out edgy satiric commentary like this:

"If Ted Kennedy drove a VW he'd be President now."

And subversive covers. One showed a dog with a gun to its head with the caption: "If you don't buy this magazine, we will kill this dog."

That kind of thing.

The magazine was outrageous and controversial (they were getting sued by everyone) but it took off.

The film is awash in pop culture icons from that era:  Tom Snyder, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Christopher Guest, Chevy Chase, John Belushi.  All were involved in the early days of the National Lampoon.

And then Doug came up with the idea for a movie about college and "Animal House" was born, a film starring unknown actors that turned out to be the highest grossing comedy in movie history and then "Caddyshack." Doug was on a roll.

Enter cocaine. In those days, cocaine always seemed to come with success and Doug succumbed to it as well as other excesses.

And as I said, Kenny was a smart ass.  I guess you would have to be to launch a humor magazine and write some of the funniest screenplays ever.  But I am not a big fan of smart asses and guys who are always on and that for me was the problem with this film.  Some of the things he did and said were just cringe worthy. If we are to care about Kenney, he has to come down to earth some time and we have to see the real man behind the wisecracks and the bravado, but he never does and we never do.  He is a total goof off and not a very nice guy.  He was a womanizer, a cheater and not a very loyal friend and he eventually went over the edge literally with his excessive lifestyle and when he did, I just didn't really care.

Written by Michael Colton, John Aboud (based on the book by Josh Karp) and directed by David Wain, the film boasts an all star cast and is a reminder that the great comedians and comedy writers of our time were often the most messed up.  Comedy is serious business. But the film tried to do too much and ultimately felt like a superficial run down of Kenney's life and lacked real heart.  Doug Kenny as portrayed by Will Forte is a guy who is really, really hard to like or relate to and Forte's wigs were awful.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I know Kenney influenced magazine, movie and TV history but I found his portrayal in this film to be so obnoxious that I just didn't care about him or the film.




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




155 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?


Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965)



A Carpathan folk legend about Ivan and Marichka, two young lovers from feuding families, who fall in love, and but then Marichka dies, and we are left with the tragic dirge of a life that follows for Ivan.

Set in the 19th century Carpathian mountains in the Ukraine, this films uses a series of vignettes to tell the story of Ivan (Ivan Mykolaichuk), who meets Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova) and falls in love with her. However, she is the daughter of man who killed Ivan's father, which doesn't go over very well, but they marry anyway.  Then Marichka gets pregnant. Then she dies.  Then Ivan falls in love again.  Then he is betrayed and things don't end well for our Ivan. That's basically it and it's all very grim. But while this is all happening, there is crop harvesting, horse-showing, bread making, dancing and singing. It's a celebration of Ukrainian folk life so it's almost a documentary except for the occasional death by drowning and a bit of cheating.

Directed by Sergei Parajanov from the novel by Mikhaylo Kotsyubinsky (adapted by Ivan Chendej), the film goes back and forth between color and black and white and I never figured out why. It's also all very folkish and folk songy and takes forever to get to the point.  Very arty and very boring, and the strident score for this film is the one of the most annoying I have ever heard.

So why was I supposed to see this?

Why it's a Must See:  "[The director's] merging of myth, history, poetry, ethnography, dance, and ritual is one of the supreme works of the Soviet sound cinema..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Russian folk music or you enjoy watching crop harvesting and horse shoeing, you might like this but for me, zzzzzzzzz.




***Book of the Week***




Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-To Book by Dan Harris (2017)



Dan Harris wants us to be happier...and he thinks meditation is the key.

Harris is a recognizable correspondent for ABC News and a regular Weekend news anchor.  He is also the author of "10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works - A True Story." What you may not know is that Harris famously had a panic attack live on air which led him to some major soul searching and that first book.  

So how do you get 10% happier?

Well, one way, according to Harris, is to make meditation a regular part of your life.  Like most converts, Harris is a zealot for meditation.  He and his co-author even went on tour by bus to get the word out.  Before that famous panic attack, he was a self-described a**hole who was consumed by work and the path to success, and he wants the world to know that he at least now knows he was an a**hole.

So this book is an accessible and self-deprecating tale of Harris's journey to meditation and its benefits.  His mantra now is, if he can do it, you can do it.

Likewise, if I can do it, you can do it.

Yes, I am also a believer. 

I have been following the Oprah/Deepak school of meditation and wrote about how it has helped me in my blog post "A Little Meditation on a Little Meditation by an Unlikely Meditator" which I wrote back in 2014.  So I am not a skeptic and not necessarily fidgety, but I was drawn to this book to give me some pointers because I am always interested in the insight of others.

Whenever I tell someone I am into meditation, the first thing that person says is, "Oh, I could never shut off my mind" or "I could never sit still that long" or "I don't have time" or "If I go into my mind like that, the devil might get inside me."

And that's the point of this book - to clear up those misconceptions and show you how easy it is to take a break from all of those thoughts in your head and get some clarity.

I know this is difficult to believe, but you are not your thoughts.  Thoughts are just thoughts and you get a better understanding of that when you start practicing meditation.

There are many ways to meditate, but this book is all about "mindfulness meditation," which is derived from Buddhism but does not require adopting a belief system or declaring yourself to be a Buddhist.  This is just a "simple, secular exercise for the brain," that promotes calm, focus and mindfulness.  You can do it for 30 minutes, 10 minutes, or even just one minute.

Here are some tips for the beginner:

  • Approach the establishing of a meditation habit an an experiment.  You're not making a lifetime commitment.
  • Be willing to fail. Know that it's part of the process.
  • Start small.  Don't take on too much too soon.  One minute counts!
  • Try attaching mediation to a pre-existing habit (For example, 'After I shower or run, or have my morning coffee, I meditate for a minute)'
  • Stay on the lookout for the life benefits. Let them pull you forward.


Harris ends the book with this:

"Meditation...is a kind of disembedding from the various trances...in which we live our lives...But it is possible to burst your own bubble of self-absorption...what comes forward is greater attunement to other people...and also closer connection to life's fundamental mysteries.  You shift from being stuck in the content of your thoughts to being amazed that you are thinking in the first place...[you] undestand the sacred fact that you're alive."

Rosy the Reviewer says...this book is a down-to-earth, easy to understand primer on meditation that will help you find the road to happiness.



Thanks for reading!
 
See you next Friday 


for my reviews of the Oscar Nominated films


"The Darkest Hour"

 and

"Call Me By Your Name"

as well as
  
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, February 9, 2018

"Phantom Thread" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Phantom Thread" as well as DVDs "Geostorm" and "Last Flag Flying.  The Book of the Week is "After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Sansho the Bailiff."]



Phantom Thread


A brilliant dress designer and confirmed bachelor meets his muse...and his match.

This film is hyped as Daniel Day-Lewis's last performance as he has announced that he is retiring from acting.  But he has retired before.  Remember when he "retired" and moved to Italy to become a cobbler?  I'm not lying.  You can't make this stuff up.  But then he started acting again so I'm not holding my breath this time.  Actors are actors for a reason -- they need the spotlight.  But you never know.  Day-Lewis is a strange guy.

Speaking of strange guys, here Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a brilliant English dress designer and confirmed bachelor living in 1950's London. He lives with his current muse and his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), but it is obvious early on that his current muse is getting on his nerves.  You see, Reynolds is a fastidious, prickly sort, one of those guys who expects everyone to kowtow to him, the kind of man who expects to get his own way all of the time and has no problem showing his irritation when he doesn't.  Geniuses are like that, I guess, and can get away with being jerks.  Reynolds has his routine and he likes to stick to it.  No one should speak to him in the morning (if breakfast doesn't go right, it ruins his whole day) or disturb him while he is working and absolutely no surprises. I'm not a fan of those kinds of guys, brilliant or not. 

However, all of that changes when Reynolds meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a young immigrant waitress in a seaside town where he has a cottage.  Alma is a beautiful, but quiet and shy, much younger woman and is taken in by Reynolds' charm and sophistication, though, I found his wooing of her very, very creepy.  However, she becomes his muse and lover, and moves in with him, but she, too, soon falls prey to Reynolds' lifestyle which includes his irritation at her interruption of his quiet breakfast.  Scraping her toast with butter and pouring coffee is enough to make him bristle. He also takes to ignoring her for long periods of time.  It quickly becomes clear to her that he isn't going to marry her any time soon, either, except, what Reynolds doesn't realize is that he has met his match in Alma. Sometimes it's those quiet, shy types who end up getting what they want.

Reynolds' doting but no-nonsense sister, Cyril, whose territorial presence hovers over everything, watches the relationship unfold (think Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca"). She has seen it all before.  But what she and Reynolds don't realize is that Alma may see to be a shy, retiring and moldable young woman, but there is a steely interior at work in Alma and she figure out a unique way to get Reynolds to propose. 

Writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson, who has a cult following for his film "There Will Be Blood (which also starred Day-Lewis)," and who also directed "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia" and "The Master," among other critical successes, can be counted on to make interesting, original films and does it once again here, though this is definitely a departure from the content of his other films.  He has produced a film more in the vein of the glamorous romantic films of the 50's - think Douglas Sirk and Ross Hunter or the elegant and lush British films of Merchant and Ivory with beautiful cinematography and gorgeous dresses by Mark Bridges, who has an Oscar nomination for costume design for this film. But don't be fooled. The film may be lush and beautiful and romantic but it has a twist that reminds us once again of Anderson's originality and quirky take on life and the last 30 minutes were very strange and kind of lost me, but then what great film doesn't leave some questions to be asked and thought about? The film is also one of the nine films nominated for Best Picture this year.

As I said, Day-Lewis is a strange guy - he is one of those actors who lives his role at home as well as on the screen (his poor wife) - but he is also one of our greatest actors.  Whenever he is in a film, an Oscar nomination for Best Actor is a no-brainer and this year is no exception.  Lesley Manville is also nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and though you might not know her name, if you watch a lot of British mysteries or films you will recognize her face. 

Krieps is a newcomer and could be a clone of a young Meryl Streep.  In fact, watching the film I could have sworn she was one of Streep's daughters.  Her performance was impeccable and she held her own with Day-Lewis, but unfortunately she was not recognized for her performance by the Academy, but keep your eyes out for her.  She is one to watch.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful film that deserves its Best Picture Oscar nomination and harks back to the romantic films of the past highlighted by an interesting, twisty story and brilliant performances. 




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

On DVD






Geostorm (2017)


It seems that a couple of years from now - actually next year, 2019 - all hell is going to break loose with the weather but never fear.  The world will come together to find a way to counteract the storms - or will it?

So when this film begins, there were some weather issues but we have made it through 2019 and everything has been going along swimmingly.  No major weather catastrophes because of a weather satellite net called Dutch Boy (remember the Dutch kid who put his finger in the dike?) that was invented to keep bad weather in check.

But what do you do when the satellites start blowing fuses?

Well, you call in Gerard Butler, that's what.

This film turned out to be a surprise hit last year so never doubt the box office power of Gerard Butler.  The same thing happened with his most recent film "Den of Thieves."  No one heard of it and it made a splash at the box office.

So what's a Geostorm?

No, it's not the Republicans taking over Congress, that's the GOP.  No, a Geostorm is basically the end of the world.

The film begins with thunder and ominous music and a child's voice-over:

"Everyone was warned but no one listened."

So it's a good thing we have Gerard Butler who plays Jake Lawson, the scientist who invents Dutch Boy, a sort of satellite net that protects earth from bad weather.  Dutch Boy has been doing a good job of keeping the world safe from the weather and it's all been handled by the United States.  But in three years, the United States will be handing Dutch Boy over to an International Committee and Lawson is called up in front of a U.S. Committee to reassure them that Dutch Boy is working properly and everything is going to be fine.

However, Lawson is not the reassuring type and manages to insult everyone there. You see, Lawson is a bit of an arrogant rogue.  He is abrasive and angry and his younger brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), who also works for the government and who is usually able to smooth things over for Jake, can't do it this time.  Jake rankles the Committee so much that he is fired and Max is assigned to take over Dutch Boy. That certainly doesn't help the brothers' relationship, which was on a slippery slope to begin with.

Fast forward three years and you can guess what is going to happen, right?

UN troops discover a village where everything is frozen including the inhabitants.  Now that wouldn't necessarily be a strange thing except the village was in the middle of an Afghan desert.

Now Dutch Boy is in trouble and seems to actually be attacking earth. Horrible weather has returned and only one person can save the world.  Guess who.

Right, Gerard Butler, I mean, Jake Lawson.

But Jake, after being fired, has gone off the grid to pout and is living in a trailer with his young daughter.  He is divorced and why he has custody of his daughter when it seems he has a perfectly good relationship with his ex-wife is never explained but we had to have the little girl so we could have that ominous voice over at the beginning.  And of course the little girl is super smart and precocious and says things like "shit happens."  Shoot me now.

So Max has to coax Jake back and he does that by telling Jake it's a mistake he has made and now he has to fix it.  And there isn't much time because all hell is breaking loose with the weather again.

None of this film really makes any sense, and it's actually more of a Star Wars kind of spy movie than a disaster film, even though the trailer definitely hyped this film as a classic disaster film.  In between the few disaster scenes there is a lot of boring, geeky science talk and the whole thing is overdramatic as hell with Girard angrily yelling most of his lines. It's also a mystery, a story of sabotage, a romance and did I mention it's all very overdramatic?

To save the world, Jake has to make his way up to the space station where he meets an International crew and they all try to figure out why Dutch Boy is malfunctioning while at the same time the weather is wreaking havoc on women in bikinis and little dogs.  It seems that someone is covering up a defect and if what is going on isn't figured out soon - we actually have a timer - a Geostorm is an inevitability.

Now I am going to give you a hint.  It's not exactly a spoiler but here is something I have discovered from watching many, many British mysteries.

In murder mysteries, if you are trying to identify the killer and there is an actor in the film who is quite famous but who has a very small part, nine times out of ten, that's your killer. Or as in this film, if we are trying to figure out who is sabotaging Dutch Boy, look for a character with a very small part who seems to be out of place or you wonder why he or she is in the film.  That's all I'm going to say about that but I had it figured out by the time the big reveal happened.  And you can thank me later for that important information.

Written by Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot and directed by Devlin, the film seems to be very pro-globalization, which is a very controversial topic these days and the President is a controversial character, which also seems familiar, but the whole thing plays like a cartoon and it's difficult to care about any of it.  Lots of big names in this film and you have to wonder what they were thinking.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the disaster scenes were the best part of this film but unfortunately there weren't enough of them to save this film from the disaster it is.




Last Flag Flying (2017)


Considered a "spiritual sequel" to "The Last Detail," and a 30 year update.

I have to say right up front that "The Last Detail" was one of my all-time favorite films with Jack Nicholson doing his thing and a brilliant, touching story by Daryl Ponicsan who also wrote this screenplay.  Also I am a huge fan of director Richard Linklater (who collaborated on the screenplay), so that's why I wanted to see this film, despite the fact that I am not much of a Bryan Cranston or Steve Corell fan, I don't really like guy buddy movies and the trailer looked dumb.

But I was looking forward to seeing this only to discover that the names of the characters had been changed and the film didn't really have much to do with "The Last Detail" at all.

But I wanted to give it a chance.

It's 2003 and Larry "Doc" Shepherd (Steve Carell) is on a mission.  His wife has died and his only son has just been killed in the Iraq War and his body is coming home to be buried at Arlington with full military honors.  Doc looks up his old Vietnam War buddies, Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranson), who is an alcoholic and ironically running a bar in Norfolk, and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who has become a pastor, to ask them to accompany him to pick up his son's body.  These men haven't fared very well since they served together in Vietnam.  They were something once, now they are something else, so says Sal philosophically. 

The film takes quite a while to set up the story before much happens, but in the second half we finally find out just how Doc's son was killed and Sal and Richard have to decide whether to tell Doc.  Doc also decides he doesn't want to bury his son at Arlington after all, but rather to take him home, and the film becomes a sort of sad buddy road trip film with a very anti-war tone.

Isn't it strange how you take a dislike to some actors even though you don't know them personally and never will?  And you don't really have a good reason for not liking them?  That's how I feel about Cranston and Corell.

Not sure why I don't like Carell.  He has certainly grown up a bit since "The Office " and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."  Maybe it's the characters he has played - clueless idiots - and playing Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes" didn't help.  However, he is very toned down here.  In fact he is so toned down he barely registers.

Likewise, I don't relate to Cranston, though I certainly give him props for his versatility.  He can play comedy ("Why Him?") or drama ("Trumbo") but something about his delivery seems to be bombastic and grumpy, no matter what he is playing.  I like Fishburne but he can be kind of one note as well.

But I am a huge fan of director Linklater - I thought "Boyhood" was brilliant - so you can imagine my disappointment when I didn't really like this film. For me, something just got lost along the way.  The film was too talky, too didactic, too slow, and I kept waiting for something to happen and nothing did. 

Though the film seemed to be a labor of love for Linklater - his affection for the characters was apparent as was his message of friendship and his views on the Iraq War and of America are ones I agree with, but despite good intentions, the film was not a particularly good theatrical experience and seemed too overt, something that surprised me coming from Linklater.  I think of him as a more subtle filmmaker who lets things happen visually. Perhaps if you are a man and a veteran the film might speak to you more. The film felt like a coming-of-age film for middle-aged men and maybe it was.  You have to grow up sometime, I guess. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...love Linklater but he missed the mark on this one for me.



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




156 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




Sansho the Bailiff (1954)


In medieval Japan, a governor is sent into exile for choosing compassion over his duty, and when his wife and children try to join him, they are enslaved and put through a life of oppression and suffering.  I know it sounds bleak and it is but trust me...it's also inspiring.

Based on a classic folk tale and directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, this is the story of human reslilience in the face of evil.

An idealistic governor in 11th century Japan disobeys the feudal lord and is cast into exile, leaving his wife, Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka) and children, Anju (Kyoko Kagawa) and Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi), to fend for themselves. Their compassionate father had taught the children that "Without mercy, a man is like a beast," and Zushio never wanted to forget that.

Six years later, the wife and children set off to find him.  When they can't find lodging, an old seemingly kind lady offers to put them up but instead sells them into slavery.  The mother and children are separated, the mother is taken by boat to be sold into prostitution and the children are sold to Sansho the Bailiff for a life of hard labor. 

Ten years pass.  The kids are now 18 and 23.  Zushio has given up and accepted his lot, and forgotten what his father had taught him about mercy. In fact,  he has become a trusted henchman for Sansho, carrying out brutal acts on anyone who tries to escape.  He had not been able to live up to his father's teachings about being merciful, but he eventually has an epiphany about how bad he has become.  He decides he must find his father, and Anju and he plot his escape.  He pledges to come back for her but Anju, realizing the futility of that and in order to help Zushio's escape, kills herself as a decoy.

Zushio does escape and is able to regain his family's noble standing and returns to Sansho's compound, this time as an official where he outlaws slavery.  That done, he goes to find his mother in what is one of the most emotionally charged scenes ever.  I defy you not to cry.

This film is a reminder that no matter what century you live in, life can be very hard for many and evil exists, but the love of family and the strength of the human spirit can prevail.

Why it's a Must See: "...one of the great emotional and philosophical journeys ever made for the cinema.  Possibly the high point in an unbroken string of masterpieces made by Kenjo Mizoguchi shortly before his death, [this film] features the perfection of a signature visual style -- made up predominantly by long, complexly staged shots, paced by gliding camera movements..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Mizoguchi was not as famous as Kurosawa but directed 86 films between 1923 and 1956.  He is not well-known now but in the 1950's he was considered the best.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful film that shows that despite a world of violence, betrayal and evil, love will transcend it.


 
***Book of the Week***




After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, A Daughter's Search by Sarah Perry (2017)



A young girl comes of age after the murder of her young mother.

Natural events take on more significance when accompanied by unnatural tragic events in one's life and that is why Perry remembers an eclipse when she was 12 - because soon after her young mother was murdered.  That eclipse was forever imprinted on Perry and stands as a symbol of the darker side of life. 

Sarah lived with her single mother, Crystal, in rural Maine.  Sarah was 12 and asleep in her bed when she heard her mother cry out and when she found her mother, her mother was dead.  The assailant escaped into the night and Sarah was left motherless.  Shipped back and forth between well-meaning friends and her mother's sisters, Sarah's life was difficult and lonely and she grew up in the shadow of her mother's unsolved murder.

Twelve years later, there was a trial but still many unanswered questions, so the adult Sarah, who wanted to understand her mother's life, began a personal investigation that took her back to Maine and back to all of those childhood memories. 

This book is part memoir and part true crime who-done-it as Perry tries to not only make sense of her mother's life but to discover who killed her.  It was 12 years before a suspect surfaced but even today Perry is not really sure if he was the one or what really happened that night even though she was there.

This is a very heart-felt and emotional read that will pull you in.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like well-written true crime with a personal slant, you will like this book.

 
 
Thanks for reading!

 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of 



"The Shape of Water"

  
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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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.