Friday, September 22, 2017

"Home Again" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Home Again" as well as DVDs "Megan Leavey" and "In the Courtyard."  The Book of the Week is Lonely Planet's "How to Pack for Any Trip."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Sans Soleil"]




Home Again


Life is complicated for a single mom who has just turned 40.

It's Alice Kinney's (Reese Witherspoon) birthday.  She has just turned 40 and she is not happy about it.  She is separated from her husband, Austin (Michael Sheen), has two young, and dare I say, cough, precocious daughters, Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfiend) - I will get to that in a minute - and she has just moved back into her old family home in L.A. and is trying to get a design business off the ground.  She is crying alone in the bathroom because it's her birthday and in the past her birthdays were always a big deal.

You see, her father was a famous movie director and her mother his actress muse and growing up Alice's birthdays were major events.  Now her father is dead and here she is 40 and alone, back living in the house she grew up in.

Meanwhile, Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky), an aspiring director, actor and screenwriter respectively, are trying to get their short film made into a feature and struggling to make a living in L.A.  They have just been kicked out of their motel room and are basically homeless when they meet Alice and two of her girlfriends in a bar.  Did I mention that Harry is a very handsome young guy?  The emphasis is on young. In fact, all three of the guys are twenty-somethings. But Alice and Harry hit it off and the party of six end up at Alice's house and Alice and Harry end up...well, you know.  Actually, they try to have sex but Harry has had too much to drink and gets sick which is just as well because Alice realizes that he is just too young for her.

The next morning Alice's mother, Lillian (Candace Bergen) shows up and when the guys recognize her as the famous actress Lillian Stewart, they make a big fuss over her.  Later, when Alice gets back from an appointment at the end of the day, the guys are still there gushing over Lillian.  When it comes to light that the boys don't have a place to stay, Lillian gets the bright idea that they can stay in Alice's guest house.

And that's what they do.  The guys move into a guesthouse at the back of Alice's garden and make themselves at home. Harry and Alice have a bit of a love affair, George makes friends with Alice's daughters and is also secretly in love with Alice and Teddy just loves having a family.  They all get along swimmingly and it's all just too cute...until Austin arrives and wants Alice back.

I was originally interested in seeing this film because I thought it was directed by Nancy Meyers who has written and directed some romantic comedies I have enjoyed ("Something's Gotta Give," "The Intern").  She has the patent on the lifestyles and love problems of upper-middle-class beautiful people, but it turns out that Meyers produced, not directed.  This time it's her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who wrote and directed, but I have to say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

Like mother, like daughter. It's still the lifestyles and love problems of upper- middle-class beautiful people, though there is a bit of a younger spin here and I have to say that it's also a bit far-fetched.  Would a woman really let three guys she just met at a bar move into her compound with her and her two young daughters and have no problem when they make themselves at home in her house?  But this is chick flick stuff of the highest order and I still enjoyed it. When I walked out of the theatre and the usher asked me what I thought, the first thing that came to mind was "Cute."  And that's what this film is.  It's cute.  And there is nothing wrong with cute.

For some reason, I have not been a huge Reese Witherspoon fan but over the years she has grown on me. Ever since making a big splash in "Legally Blonde," she has perfected the perky, plucky heroine.  I think I like her better now that she is more mature. She has less perk and less pluck but there is a stability and warmth that comes through now.  I liked her in "Big Little Lies," which just won a bunch of Emmys last Sunday, and I liked her in this.  She has such a likable quality that you really believe that three guys she has just met would fall in love with her.  She's just so...nice...and cute.

Loved seeing Candace Bergen.  I always enjoy seeing the "old" actresses working but I had to laugh.  At the beginning of the film when it was established that Alice was the child of a famous director and famous actress mother there were several stills of Bergen in her prime, which is fine, but I laughed because they did the same thing for Goldie Hawn in "Snatched."  I am sure both of those actresses wanted to remind us that yes, they are older now, but when they were young they were hot!  Candace and Goldie, you two are still hot!

The guys were also engaging.  I was surprised that Wolff had such a supporting role as Teddy since he starred in "Paper Towns" and "The Intern."  Alexander, the major love interest, reminded me of David Muir, the news guy on "20/20." Alexander has mostly done TV.  Likewise, Rudnitsky, who I particularly liked in this, is an SNL alum and has done mostly TV and stand-up.  These guys were all engaging actors and I hope to see more of them.

Now to the child actors.  Nothing against these two young girls.  They are just selling the lines they were given, but sheesh.  One recites all of the symptoms for various ailments as per drug commercials on TV and the other littlest one is - I can barely get out the word - precocious.  You know the kind of kid I mean - tiny, cute little girl, and out of the mouth of babes comes some slam dunk bon mots.  My kind of hell.  And can I ask a question?  Why do so many child actors have three names?

Rosy the Reviewer says...though there is nothing particularly new here, enjoyable romantic comedies are hard to find these days and this one was "cute."







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

On DVD





Megan Leavey (2017)


The true story of a Marine dog handler and her bomb sniffing dog Rex during the Iraq War.

I am a sucker for movies about dogs.  I loved "A Dog's Purpose," even though it was blatantly sentimental; I loved "Best in Show;" and don't even say the name "Old Yeller" around me.  I will burst into tears.  In fact, I just did.  And since I just had to put one of my beloved dogs down after 15 years of companionship, this film was particularly affecting.  And this movie, too, could fall into the sappy sentimental and overly patriotic kind of trap that these kinds of movies often fall into, but it is elevated by the presence of Kate Mara, whose quiet but penetrating acting keeps the film on an even keel.

Megan Leavey is at a crossroads in her life.  Her life is seeming to go nowhere.  Her family is not very supportive and she doesn't seem to fit in anywhere, so she joins the Marines. But Megan's story takes a back seat to the story of Rex, the bomb-sniffing dog.

When Megan gets in trouble on the base, as punishment, her commanding officer, Gunny (ably played by the rapper Common) is assigned to the K-9 Corps to clean the kennels.  She becomes interested in working with the dogs and inquires how she might do that. She is told that she needs to have high scores in a variety of skills so this gives her purpose and sets to work to get those scores so she can work with the dogs.  She makes the grade but before she can work with an actual dog, she has to learn how to work with the "can," a humiliating rite of passage where she literally has to drag a can around the course on a leash.  But soon she encounters Rex, a seemingly bad and vicious dog who is difficult to work with and has bitten his trainer.  Megan feels a bond with Rex and they are soon working together.

I know, it's kind of blatant.  The dog that doesn't fit in gets the trainer who doesn't fit in, but hang in there with me.  It gets better. 

So Megan works with Rex, they bond, and, though Rex is sort of a high strung scaredy cat, so is Megan so together they gain confidence. The night before they ship out to Iraq, Megan takes Rex to her room and gives him a pep talk and lets her sleep on his bed.

When Megan gets to Iraq, she meets another handler, Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez), and they share a mutual attraction.  We learn why Megan's life was so nowhere - she and her best friend took drugs together.  He died, she didn't, and she couldn't forgive herself. 

Megan is told that she will only be assigned to checkpoints, not missions, but six months in she is needed for a mission and she and Rex are sent on reconnaissance. Though I certainly have never been to war, this film seemed to be a fair representation of what it must be like to be in a strange environment and encounter seemingly benign people who might have possible bad intent toward you.  Everyone, even children, are suspect.  Megan is told that there is a particular bounty on the heads of military dogs and their trainers, especially if the trainer is a woman. When a guy in a car is stopped, Rex is able to alert the squadron to an ambush but the bomb goes off he and Megan are injured.  She is evacuated and Rex is left in Iraq with Morales.

When Megan gets back to Iraq, she is reunited with Rex and with Morales and embarks on a bit of a love affair with Morales.  But Rex is shell-shocked so when Megan decides not to re-enlist, she wants to adopt Rex.  Shell-shocked dogs don't fare well in the military.  They are usually retired and put to sleep so the second half of the film is all about Megan's efforts to adopt Rex, a dog who has been deemed by the base veterinarian as not adoptable.  Megan is not having it.  She not only wants to adopt Rex but to get him recognized as a war hero.

Written by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo and Tim Lovestedt and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the second half of the film bogs down a bit as Megan's life goes downhill again as she fights PTSD and to get Rex recognized as a war hero but there is a moving ending and, of course, an epilogue so we can see what happened to the real Megan and the real Rex. 

Mara is always good.  Her realistic acting style elevates what could have been a glaringly patriotic war film that just happened to include a dog.  And speaking of the dog, Rex ably performed in his first starring role.

Rosy the Reviewer says...you can't go wrong with movies about dogs.





In the Courtyard (2014)




Antoine, an aging rocker decides to give up that life and takes on the job of caretaker for a crumbling apartment building, where he bumbles around and meets Mathilde.

Antoine (Gustave Kervern) is a 40-year-old musician with a bit of a cocaine problem and a failing rock and roll career.  In fact he is also having a bit of a nervous breakdown and walks off stage in the middle of a gig.  He decides to give up that lilfe and takes a job as a janitor for a Parisian apartment complex. He knows nothing about fixing things or taking care of an apartment building.  He is your classic fish out of water.  However, it isn't long before he reluctantly becomes entangled in the lives of the various occupants, a motley crew of strange folks. He becomes the go-to person for everyone's problems and is forced to act as a go-between when residents have complaints about each other.  For example, one resident is fixated on the bikes stored in the courtyard by another resident.

Antoine meets Mathilde (Catherine Deneuve) who is also going through a difficult time.  She is retired, involved with questionable causes and can't sleep, staying up all night plastering cracks in the wall, and scaring her husband, Serge, an in your face metaphor about Mathilde's life cracking up.

When Mathilde makes a fool of herself at a residents' meeting, she is embarrassed and holes up in her apartment afraid to go out.  Antoine talks her into going out and takes her back to the house where she grew up and that is when we learn her story.

The pair form an unlikely friendship, two wounded souls finding each other. But it's not a classic love story. It's a story of friendship. They seek solace in each other.  Mathilde finds Antoine restful to be around.  Restful?  He is practically catatonic but that's fine with her.

Directed by Pierre Salvadori with a screenplay by Salvadori, David Leotard and Benoit Graffin, this is a strange little film that doesn't appear to make any judgment about drug use or mental health issues or say anything that is new about aging, and despite good performances and some humor as Antoine interacts with the apartment building residents, comes to an unsatisfying end.

But what is satisfying is Deneuve.

American filmmakers can learn from the French who recognize that women of a certain age still have allure.  Deneuve is the perfect example of this.

Catherine Deneuve is famous for saying "At 30 a woman must choose between her face and her ass."  What she meant by that was you can stay skinny but have a gaunt face when you age or you can say to hell with dieting and get a little plump which in turn smooths out those wrinkles on the face.  She has chosen to save her face, though she is far from fat.  But she also doesn't appear to have worried so much about her face that she has gone the plastic surgery route and at 70+ she is still beautiful, lines and all.

I also really enjoyed Kervern who reminded me of a younger deadpan Girard Depardieu.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the film is worth seeing for Deneuve's and Kervern's performances but is ultimately unsatisfying.
(In French with English subtitles)





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



115 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Sans Soleil (1983)
("Sunless")



A camera man's travelogue as he travels the globe.

Here is another Chris Marker film (see last week's "La Jetee") and once again, I am not really getting it.

This is another highly narrated film that serves as a sort of travelogue as a camera man globe trots and soul searches. 

"I've been around the world several times and now only banality interests me."

Oo-kay.

There is no plot, just deep thoughts all narrated by a woman, whose voice did not bother me as much as the guy who narrated "La Jetee."

Watching some of these films from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book is making me feel kind of shallow because I not only don't get the point of some of them, from a cinematic standpoint, I often don't understand why they are included in the book and why I need to see them before I die.

I will give Marker credit for the visuals but the odd commentary was almost a distraction from the visuals.  And speaking of the visuals, it's almost as if Marker looked for the strangest things to highlight.

Why it's a Must See: "Chris Marker's masterpiece is one of the key nonfiction films of our time...A film about subjectivity, death, photography, social custom, and consciousness itself, [this film] registers like a poem one might find in a time capsule."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

As I've said in the past, I have a pretty high tolerance for slow moving films but let's just say that after I watched this I poured myself a big glass of wine and clicked over to the TV and watched a Lifetime Movie called "You May Now Kill the Bride."  I found that and the wine very satisfying.  That should tell you a lot about me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I'm not very deep.




***Book of the Week***




How to Pack for Any Trip by the editors of Lonely Planet (2016)


This book promises to teach you how to up your packing game.

I hate to pack. 

The thought of having to decide right now what I plan to wear next week in Venice is just too much.  Plus, after having a bad experience dragging my huge bag onto a vaporetto in Venice and the driver yelling at me in Italian to hurry up I have given up big suitcases and only use carry-ons.  On the one hand, it's easier to get around and I don't have to worry about Italian boat drivers yelling at me but on the other hand it's not that easy to get all of the outfits I want to take into that one little carry one.  So naturally I was drawn to this book hoping it would solve my packing frustrations.

I was hopeful after reading the introductory paragraph:

"An art, a science, a necessary evil: packing is a task all travelers must tackle before their journey even begins...Whatever your style, we hope this neatly arranged book will help you keep your luggage equality on message and well organized."

These editors of the Lonely Planet travel guides are also big on the packing light school of travel and quote Saint-Exupery: "He who would travel happily, must travel light." 

After an introduction about choosing the proper luggage - avoid the two-wheeled bag that you have to drag, "The traveler with a drag-along in a busy airport is about as popular as cholera."  Look for a spinner.  The authors also talk about various gadgets and apps to make your traveling easier and more fun.

They also recommend putting a tag on your bag so it's recognizable on the luggage carousel. Here is where you can get creative.  This is my bag tag.



Making a list of what to pack is important and the authors share lists of what to be sure to bring.  

Here is the list for us ladies:

  • Blazer
  • Flat shoes
  • Shirt
  • Dark denim jeans
  • Heels
  • Plain White T-shirt
  • Flip-flops

This seems a bit basic. 

But at the end of the book, they also share "Packing bundles," a list of categories and what to be sure to bring in each one, for example, if the kids are traveling with you, don't forget the bib and bed rail, though I can't quite get my head around how you would pack a bed rail.

Speaking of kids, there is also a chapter on teaching your kids to pack and a chapter on packing methods with pictorial demonstrations and the pros and cons of rolling, folding, bundling, layering with tissues, creating compartments, filling gaps, keeping similar items or colors together, a tetris style aimed at gamers, and stuffing, which happens when you are in a hurry and you just don't care about rolling, folding, bundling, layering, creating compartments, etc.  Basically, they don't recommend the stuffing method, though they try not to be judgmental. There is also a section for you backpackers out there on how to pack your backpack efficiently.

The book is especially fun when it gets into packing for specific cities.  

For example, if you are going to Stockholm be sure you have comfortable shoes but not ugly ones because "your kicks should be stylish enough to both dangle from a bar stool in a hipster café and sit happily on your feel while pounding miles of pavement."  Now you're talking!  I like the feet dangling from the bar stool! Or Delhi where you need to pack an open mind: "There's nowhere quite like Delhi to bring on a white-hot case of culture shock." There are some case studies as well on what to pack if you are heading for the wilderness, the jungle, the mountains, the desert or the beach.

The book ends with their "Top Tips," for various scenarios such using a cross-body bag to keep your money and documents safe, the importance of weighing your bag before you leave home, especially for travel outside the U.S. and if you plan to wear a wet suit, putting plastic bags on your hands and feet will make it easier to get your wet suit on.

I have also written about trips I have taken and put forth some travel tips that might be of particular interest to my fellow Baby Boomers in my post "Baby Boomer Travel Tips."

Rosy the Reviewer says...this book might be too basic for the seasoned traveler, but it's a fun read, and if you are like me, and you hate to pack, there are some good tips here.









Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday 



for my review of  


"mother!"  


and


The Week in Reviews

(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project."

  

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






Friday, September 15, 2017

"It" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "It" as well as DVDs "Gemma Bovery" and "Mississippi Grind"  The Book of the Week is "We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays" by Samantha Irby.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "La Jetee")




 
It


A group of bullied kids living in a small town band together to fight off a killer demon clown.

The small town of Derry, Maine, has a history of missing children and it becomes personal when Bill's little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) mysteriously disappears.

Bill and his friends are bullied and labeled as losers in their school.  Bill has a stutter, which of course is fodder for the bullies and much like "The Goonies" and "Stand By Me," or any movie starring a group of kids labeled as losers, this motley crew has to include a fat kid, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), who is the new kid in town, and a wise-cracking, bespectacled smart aleck (Richie played by Finn Wolfhard). There is also a hypochondriac mama's boy (Eddie played by Jack Dylan Grazer); a black orphaned homeschooler (Mike played by Chosen Jacobs);  Stan (Wyatt Oleff), the local rabbi's son who is stressing out about his upcoming bar mitzvah and, of course, Bill, the serious kid who is the ostensible leader ably played by Jaeden Lieberher.  But unlike past kid groups, we also have a girl, Beverly (Sophia Lillis), who has a bad reputation at school and is shunned by the other girls but who adds a quiet intelligence to our little band of losers.

They know they are outsiders and considered losers, so they dub themselves "The Losers Club."

When each of these kids starts to see visions of a menacing clown (Bill Skarsgard) who shape-shifts into their worst nightmares, they decide that they have to face their fears and defeat him. And to make matters worse, these kids are not just fighting the forces of supernatural evil, they are fighting real- life evil bullies led by the crazy-eyed, mullet-wearing Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) and his goons and also parents who either don't understand them or are pervy, weird and abusing them. Whew! Who knew childhood could be so scary?!

Considering how I feel about child actors, you would think I would love a movie where a murderous clown is killing off little kids, but actually, this film is kind of a mess when it comes to that part of the film.  For a horror film that is breaking all kinds of records, it was kind of disappointing.  I don't usually go to horror films but the previews and all of the hype made me want to see it so I guess I was set up to be a bit disappointed.

That doesn't mean I hated the movie but if you are a true horror fan, you might also be disappointed.  This film is more about the horrors of childhood, real and imagined, than what's really under the bed.  "It" is a metaphor for whatever "it" is that you are afraid of.  But in this film the adults and the bullies were far more scary than the clown and the various ghouls that make an appearance.  And I think that's the point.  The film comments on coming of age, friendship, standing up to your fears, loyalty and love - all good messages but those messages were just too obvious.  I like a little sublety with my horror.  And actually, I'd like a little horror with my horror.

However, the usual over-used horror clichés abound:

  • Set in a charming small town where nothing bad could ever happen, right?
  • Dark basements where the lights don't work
  • A creaky, cob-web infested old house
  • Useless adults
  • Scampering shapes in the background
  • Drippy sewers
  • A quiet scene with a sudden jolt of noise meant TO MAKE YOU JUMP
  • The victim falls down while running from the attacker
  • A bad guy who just won't die no matter how many times you hit him over the head with a shovel or stab him or push him down a well - he just keeps coming
  • and, of course, clowns.

I have to say that with my bias toward child actors, these kids were great, despite the stereotypes, especially Lillis, who is spunky and looks like a real girl. Also Skarsgard as Pennywise the Dancing Clown is one of the scariest clowns ever.  His mouth was perfect for the make-up.  What made him scariest was the benign, kid-like quality he had until he didn't and some very, scary teeth appeared.

Adapted from the Stephen King novel by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga (he directed the wonderful "Beasts of No Nations") and Gary Dauberman (known for the Annabelle movies) and directed by Andy Muschietti, this film takes advantage of the popularity of the TV show "Stranger Things (and Wolfhard also stars in that)," and has broken all kinds of records in its opening weekend (Best opening day ever for a horror title as well as highest three-day weekend, highest grossing Stephen King movie ever, second highest opening day ever for an R-rated film and best September opening for any genre movie), but for me it was just OK as a horror film. 

I enjoyed the first half, getting to know the kids and enjoying the camaraderie and the film was tense leading up to the finale.  I will admit that I did have my hands over my eyes several times. But then it all kind of fell apart at the end. It just wasn't that scary.  It was more of an unexplained muddled mess. For example, why were all those children floating around in the air?

But despite the ending, I mostly liked the film but what I liked, and I can't believe I am saying this, was the kid ensemble.  They were all wonderful young actors and it was their stories that I was interested in.  Their trash-talking interactions were funny and real.  So for me, this was less a horror film and more of a coming of age film like "Stand By Me," so if you are expecting a full-out, edge of your seat, screaming your head off horror film, even if you are afraid of clowns, this might be a disappointment for you. And I never did figure out what the red balloons were for.

The marketing for this film was exceptional.  After seeing the trailer, I wanted to see it and I don't usually go to the theatre to see a horror film.  But the film didn't live up to the intensity of the trailer.  I had not read the book, so as far as the story itself goes, I didn't know what to expect and I can't comment on whether or not the film was true to the book.  But I have never been one to dislike a movie because it wasn't faithful to the book.  Books and movies are two different art forms.  Likewise, I didn't see the TV miniseries that appeared several years ago either, so perhaps those of you who already know all about the book and/or miniseries won't have the expectations I had.

Oh, and you know how much I love sequels...  The film ends with "Chapter One."  So we know we haven't seen the last of that damn clown.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are afraid of clowns, this would probably be scary for you but for the rest of us this is a perfectly fine coming of age tale that just happens to have a scary clown in it. 




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

On DVD






Gemma Bovery (2014)

A baker who is obsessed with the book "Madame Bovary" also becomes obsessed with his new neighbor whose life seems to be replicating the book.

Life imitates art in this story of Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini), an ex-Parisian who has moved to a small French village to become a baker. Martin is a bit of a sad sack obsessed with literature.  At dinner one night, he says to his son who he thinks is a bit of a dummy, "I'd rather you took drugs than talk crap!"  Martin
is particularly obsessed with French literature, especially the novel "Madame Bovary," so he is intrigued by his new neighbors - Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and Charlie (Jason Flemyng) Bovery. 
So intrigued in fact, that he also becomes obsessed with Gemma and starts to stalk her. 

Charlie and Gemma have moved from London to Martin's quaint village.  They have moved in right across the road from Martin, which gives him a bird's eye view of the comings and goings. When he finds similarities in the marriage of Gemma and Charlie to that of Emma Bovary's, the heroine in "Madame Bovary," he lets his imagination run wild. Gemma does not disappoint when she meets Herve (Niels Schneider), a handsome young man who saves her from an allergic reaction to a bee sting and the two embark upon an affair. When Martin finds Charlie burning Gemma's personal effects, Martin is able to abscond with Gemma's diary, and as he reads the diary, the story unfolds through flashbacks.

Martin is a sort of narrator and observer of Charlie's and Gemma's life together.  He quotes from "Madame Bovary" throughout the film. You've heard of "Madame Bovary," right?  That book most of us had to read in school at some time or other. But you don't need to have read the book to enjoy the film.  It's the age-old story of a bored housewife who embarks on an affair that is doomed to bring sadness and tragedy to everyone involved.

Well, now we have Gemma Bovery, spelling is a bit different but the same sort of woman.  A beautiful woman bored with her marriage.  However, the irony here is that it is Martin who is the Madame Bovary character - he is the one bored with his life, looking for something more, lusting after Gemma and insinuating himself into her life.

Gemma frequents Martin's bakery, and as he gets to know Gemma, they become friends and he offers to show her how to bake bread in a funny little scene that is reminiscent of the pottery scene in "Ghost," except they are kneading dough instead of clay. 

As Gemma pursues an affair with Herve, Martin insinuates himself into the affair and really screws things up.

Directed by Anne Fontaine with a screenplay by Fontaine and Pascal Bonitzer adapted from Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, this is a romantic comedy but a little different from the usual romantic comedies we Americans are used to.  French comedies have a different more subtle kind of humor than many American rom-coms - think Woody Allen meets Rene Clair.

Gemma Arterton is a lovely and talented actress and when comparing this to her tour de force in "The Disappearance of Alice Creed," a movie I loved, one can see her versatility as an actress. Luchini has a fantastic face.  His expressionless face and deadpan reactions are priceless and his eyes speak a thousand words.

What I love about foreign films is that because many are subsidized by their governments, filmmakers are able to explore unusual subjects like this, and unless you live near an art house, we Americans don't usually get to see these kinds of movies and that's too bad.  So many of them are sweet, human stories like this one. The film also captures the gorgeous French countryside and lovely French village and because it's a French film there is lots of sex, some bare butts and subtitles.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like lovely romantic comedies with a twist, you will enjoy this.
(In English and French with English subtitles)






Mississippi Grind (2015)

 

Gambler Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is down on his luck and needs some money fast, so he teams up with another gambler, Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), and the two go on a road trip to make that one big score.

I've come up with a new term - country noir.  That's what this movie reminded me of - two country good old boys treading into the darkness of film noir.  These two down home guys are losers and you just know something bad is going to happen.

Written and directed by Anna Baden and Ryan Fleck, the film starts out in a casino in Iowa where Gerry is gambling - and yes, Dubuque, Iowa could be considered the country.  Curtis shows up and ingratiates himself with the locals, and it also becomes clear that Curtis is a bit of a shyster.  He is charming but he's a shyster, nevertheless.  It also becomes clear that Gerry is a bit of a sad sack with a gambling problem.  He is a real estate agent and he is not a happy guy, mostly because he owes people money and they are getting anxious for him to pay up.  Gerry likes Curtis and sees him as a light at the end of his tunnel, especially as Curtis pulls Gerry into all kinds of games of chance and he starts winning.

After a night of gambling and winning, Curtis announces that he is moving on, but when Sam (Alfre Woodard in such a small role that if you blink you will miss her) starts tightening the screws on Gerry to get the money he owes her, Gerry decides to accompany Curtis and get the hell out of Dodge, er, I mean Dubuque. Curtis proposes a trip down the Mississippi River, gambling in cities along the way with the ultimate goal of a poker game in New Orleans with a $25,000 buy-in.  Curtis agrees to stake Gerry with $2,000, provided that Gerry takes them with his car and off these guys go on the classic road trip.

This is one of those "last big score" films - Gerry just needs one last big score so that he can pay off his debts and go on to live a happy life.  As he says to Curtis, this deal with either solve all of his problems or he will go to hell.

Gee, where do you think he ends up? Well, actually, there is a bit of a twist.

But in the meantime, things are looking up for Gerry and his boring life becomes exciting because of Curtis.  First stop, prostitutes.

They stop at a brothel in St. Louis and meet up with Simone (Sienna Miller).  She is also in a dead end life so she joins them.  Gerry hooks up with a young prostitute who woos him with magic tricks, and he plays the piano for her in a sweet scene that is almost jarring it is so sweet.  When there is a scene like that in a movie like this it is almost always a harbinger of bad things to come.

Next stop, Gerry's ex-wife.  He gets a yen to make amends but just can't help himself and gets kicked out when she catches him trying to steal some cash from her sock drawer.  Did I say that Gerry is a loser?

Despite one frustrating scene after another, you keep watching because you can't imagine Gerry becoming even more of a loser than he already is, and you hope he will have some sort of epiphany and get his act together.  Will he? 

And will he finally make that big score?

Ryan Reynolds has been on a roll ever since "Deadpool."  But before that he languished in romantic comedies and made some strange film choices before his super powers came out. I liked him in the romantic comedies and thought he was really handsome but of late his teeth have been bothering me.

But this movie is actually more about Gerry than Curtis, and Ben Mendelssohn, who has since starred in the TV show "Bloodline" and the last Star Wars movie "Rogue One," shines as Gerry.  The fact that I was shouting at the TV when he made bad decision after bad decision says something about the quality of his acting.

I have always liked Sienna Miller.  She is a bit of a chameleon.  Here she sports red hair and I almost didn't recognize her.  She is a beautiful actress who should be up in the echelon with a Charlize or a Sharon or a Julia.  Not sure why she isn't.  Like "American Idol," it's all about choosing the right song and I just think that Sienna hasn't had the right "song" yet.

Speaking of songs, the blues soundtrack is wonderful.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an engrossing and smart buddy picture with two really great performances.


 
 
 

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


216 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




La Jetee (1962)
(The Pier)


Told through a series of photos with a voice-over narration, this is a post apocalyptic story of life after WW III where the survivors experiment with time travel. 

This short film (only 28 minutes) directed by Chris Marker uses a montage of still images and voice-over narration to tell the story of a man in post WW III Paris.  He is being experimented upon. His experimenters try to send him back in time before the war to do something to avert it.  As he mentally travels back in time he becomes obsessed with some recurring images from his childhood - a man being shot on the jetway (or jetee in French) at Orly Airport and the image of a beautiful woman.  By the time he realizes the connection between the two images, it is too late to avert what is soon to happen.

The film plays dramatic religious music as the still images flash before you.  There is also a benevolent British narrator whose voice got on my nerves after awhile, and I also kept waiting for the film to get to the point which in my view it never did, but it had a strangely affecting mood that reminded me a bit of old "Twilight Zone" episodes.  Doo-do-do-do, doo-do-do-do.

However, didn't get it but apparently Terry Gilliam did because his "12 Monkeys" in 1995 was a sort of remake of this film.

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] is short..., but Marker still manages to generate more of an impact than many films three times as long.  That his intentionally cold montage achieves any sort of emotional resonance validates his creativity and ingenuity, and helps explain why such an unconventional cinematic work is revered as an influential science-fiction masterpiece."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...did not get this one AT ALL!





***The Book of the Week***






We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays by Samantha Irby (2017)



Funny and sometimes jaw-droppingly honest essays about life as an urban millennial woman.

Irby is funny, poignant and sometimes way out there.  If you are squeamish about sex or bodily functions, there are some observations that might make you uncomfortable but that's the point here. She is unfiltered and unafraid to share everything about her life, and in some ways her life has a been a disaster.  She herself will admit that. So what do you do when everything goes wrong?  Why you laugh.  And she wants you to laugh along with her.

Irby is a blogger (www.bitchesgottaeat.com), humorist, and skilled essayist who reminded me of a rougher version of Roxane Gay.  Some of her essays are, how shall I say this?  A bit raunchy but she doesn't care and I have to remind myself that she is in her thirties and I am not.

I say Irby is a millennial but she is right on the cusp and probably wouldn't like me calling her that. I only bring that up to show our age gap. I could be Irby's mother.  I have children her age but for some things there is no generation gap, and she and I are very sympatico in many ways.

For example, we both can't help watching "The Bachelorette."

In, fact we get to know Irby through her filling out a questionnaire to get on the show.

We are both NOT outdoor types.

In one essay, she makes "A Case For Remaining Indoors," and I couldn't help but nod my head as she made her points.

  • "My boyfriend, the television, is inside." 
         Well we all know how I feel about TV.
  
  • "Are there enough blazers in my closet?"
        Last count, I had almost 100.
  
  • "Food just tastes better inside"
       Growing up we had a picnic table in our driveway in the back of the house and whenever the weather was nice, my mother made us drag all of the food and plates and utensils outside to sit at that picnic table to eat dinner.  Likewise, every Sunday after church it was off to a nearby lake to eat on yet another picnic table or to the beach where we would BBQ and I had to pick sand out of my hotdog buns so yes, Samantha, food tastes much better to me too, INSIDE!
   
  • "Your space, your rules."
        When you are inside, you can control things better.


We are also similar when it comes to dieting.

She says: "Dieting is crazy and turns most of us jerks into insufferable babies.  Either (1) you're a crabby asshole on the verge of tears because you are desperate for a handful of Cheetos, or (2) you are perched atop a high horse made of fewer than twelve hundred daily calories, glaring down your nose at me and pointing out how much saturated fat is in my sweetened iced tea.  Man, don't you hate a fat-skinny bitch more than anything else on the planet?  You know who I mean -- your friend who used to eat mayonnaise straight from the jar but who recently lost twenty pounds doing Whole30 because she was going through a midlife crisis and is now suddenly an expert on health and nutrition, totally qualified to rip the corn dog out of your greasy little clutches."

Yes, Samantha, I know just what you mean. I have been both of those people!

There are even more similarities between us.

Being from Chicago, Irby is a city girl but she fantasizes on whether or not she could make it in a small town in an essay titled "The Real Housewife of Kalamazoo."

Once again our TV watching tastes coincide, and as you know, I also fantasized about being a real housewife ("Retirement as a Real Housewife").  Add that to the fact that I lived several years in Kalamazoo (I am from Michigan), once again, despite our age gap, our similarities become apparent.  She lists the pros and cons of living in Kalamazoo - Pros: cheaper, people are nicer, it's pretty and life would be simpler.  Cons: could be boring, nature terrifies her and she can't be sure someone wouldn't call her the "N-word."

However, I can't necessarily reassure her about her pros and cons, but I have to correct her that Kalamazoo is hardly a small town but I guess compared to Chicago it is.

Irby also comments on love, sex, Civil War reenactments, babies and babysitting, important questions to ask yourself before getting married, applying for a customer service job and, as per the title, spending time on the computer talking to strangers rather than endure the anxiety of human interaction.

"I spent too much time trying to mold myself to fit the romantic ideals of humans who proved themselves unworthy of that effort...Never again will I be with someone who is unwilling to accept me as I am, or who has any desire to mold me into something that makes me uncomfortable."

You go, girl!

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like Roxanne Gay or just really funny and open observations from a hip young woman about pop culture, dating, sex and life itself, you will enjoy this book.


Thanks for reading!

 

See you next Friday 



for my review of  


"Home Again"  


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).