Friday, July 18, 2014

Celebrate What's Fabulous and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Begin Again" and the DVDs "Getaway," "Under the Skin" and "Nymphomanic Vols. I and II plus the book "Unbreak My Heart" by Toni Braxton and recommend my new favorite restaurant, Brimmer and Heeltap].

But First
 
 It's Fabulous Friday so let's talk about what makes life really fabulous!
What makes life fabulous is not lots of money, though that helps.
It's the little things like walking on the beach at sunset.
Who am I kidding?
It’s more like pink fuzzy slippers, a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s and the latest episode of "Survivor."
Or ....
 
  • Wine bottles with twist top caps.  Never again do you need to find yourself alone in a motel room in Podunk, bored to death, with a bottle of wine and no wine bottle opener.

  • A small poodle resting sweetly on one’s lap after drinking out of one’s wine glass (he made me give him some!).



  • After a long day with no responsibilities and doing nothing, I like to maintain that theme by relaxing on the deck with Hubby for Happy Hour with these views.  Fabulous!



 
 
 
The drinks ain't bad either.
 



  • Outdoor concerts at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. On a beautiful summer night, you can take your hamper of food, purchase wine and settle in to listen to some great music as the sun goes down behind the trees.  However, one must be cautious with the purchase of wine part as it can result in not remembering the second half of the concert. (I’m not talking about myself, of course, but it could happen).

 

Ringo and his All Star Band



Patty Smyth

  • Top down on the convertible, the CD player cranked up to 11 with Bob Seger singing "Roll Me Away, Fabulous!  I named my Mustang after Mrs. Peel of "The Avengers."  (No, not the Marvel Comics Avengers, the "better" Avengers.  Hubby bought me a license plate holder that says, "Mrs. Peel, We're Needed!" Check this show out if you aren't familiar with it).  My Mrs. Peel is 11 years old (and that's about 100 in car years), but she is still fabulous!  (As an aside, my first Mustang was named Steed after Mrs. Peel's male counterpart.  Also a play on words because a mustang is a horse.  Get it?  Ok, ok...)



  • Exploring Seattle, my town: Long walks around Capitol Hill in the fall at dusk - I love kicking up the damp leaves - or stair walking and ending the evening with a fabulous meal at one of the great restaurants and a night cap at the Fireside Room.



 

  • Musicals. I have loved musicals ever since watching Nelson Eddy and Jeannette McDonald movies with my Dad.




Classic.
 
To pass on the tradition, I weaned my daughter on them too.  Though I have seen many of the “new” musicals ...I keep coming back to the classics – "West Side Story" being the best of the best.

 
  • Reality TV.  Duh.  I’m sure you have figured that out already.  I Tivo so many programs that when I had engagements two days in a row last week, I had to do a reality TV marathon to get caught up.  My husband has to watch too if he wants to spend any time with me.  The other night while deeply embroiled in the latest episode of "The Bachelorette," Hubby turned to me and asked, “Are you surprised I watch this stuff with you?”  And then he added, "I watch this show but I feel dirty afterward." Sad.
  •  Traveling to Europe is fabulous and even more fabulous if I am in business class on the plane.  Ah, pasta in Bologna, lighting a candle in Notre Dame Cathedral and a kiss on the Millenium Bridge in London.  My version of "Eat,Pray, Love."  This, however, is not one of those fabulous things that doesn't cost much.


 

  • Oprah - I have extolled her virtues in my post "Why Oprah Still Matters," but it bears repeating how fabulous she is.  Even though I have never forgiven her for inviting her “most loyal fans” to her giveaway shows and didn’t invite me, probably the most loyal of the loyal.  I have been there from the very beginning and invoked her name from everything to disciplining my children to what to eat on my diet. I have followed her from the days when she had programs like “Sixth Graders Gone Wild” to her adoration of Marianne Williamson and Elizabeth Gilbert. She has teamed up with Depak Chopra to offer free meditation challenges so she has gotten me into meditation (a new one starts August 11 - do you want to join me?), and her "Super Soul Sundays" give me my spiritual fix. I have also repeatedly entreated her to devote a show to librarians since she loves teachers so much and loves to read.  But noooooo. I have been there through it all and to add insult to injury, she gave all those wannabes trips to Australia and cars. But she is fabulous.

  • And have I told you lately how fabulous libraries are?   When people would learn I was a librarian, they invariably would say, “You must love books!”  Yes, I would reply, I do love books, but I also love helping people.  What many people don't realize is that libraries are in the customer service business as much as they are in the book business.  You have to want to help people to work in a library, because that is the nature of the business - people.  Helping people make sense of their lives.  Bringing people together.  Providing needed information.  From the laid off job hunter to the person seeking citizenship to the little preschooler learning to read, there is something for everyone at the library.  But there is also a friendly face, a helpful hand and a caring atmosphere that could make someone's day and we don’t even realize it.

And that is really fabulous.

Have a FABULOUS FRIDAY!
 


What makes you say FABULOUS!

 
 
 
Now on to
The Week in Reviews

 
  ***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Should Be Glad You Did)
 
 
 




Begin Again

 


 

A washed up music producer and a fledgling songwriter meet in NYC.

The movie opens with Gretta (Keira Knightly) being called up on stage to sing a song at an open mic night by her friend, Steve (James Corden).  As she sings, we flash back to Dan (Mark Ruffalo) waking up after what appears to have been a rough night.  Dan has a drinking problem, it seems and when he finally makes it to work he learns he is being asked to leave his own record production company because he has been unable to sign any new talent.  This prompts him to get even more wasted and his last bar stop just happens to be where our Gretta is singing.  He decides that she will be the next big thing.

As for Gretta, another flashback provides what happened to her prior to meeting Dan.  Gretta's boyfriend, Dave (played by singer Adam Levine in his first film role) has hit it as a singer in London and Gretta has accompanied him to the States.  His fame has come with her help since Gretta is also a singer/songwriter.  But Dave has an affair that he wants to see through, so Gretta moves out and into her friend Steve's apartment.  Speaking of Levine, his moustache and beard should have their own Facebook page - each.  And that's not a good thing.

All that precedes Gretta and Dan meeting. 

This is another entry from writer/director John Carney who gave us the charming and poignant "Once."  This isn't another "Once," though there are little bits that are reminiscent of it, such as Gretta's friend Steve is a busker, just as Glenn was in "Once."  Likewise, Gretta's and Dan's meeting provide both of them with the impetus to succeed, much as happened with Glenn and Marketa. (Not to be confused with the Broadway version of the film.  The film is far superior to it).

The music isn't as memorable as the music from "Once," but it's pleasant.

I am not a big Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightly or Catherine Keener fan.  Ruffalo always looks like he needs a bath and his voice is annoying.  With Keira, it's her teeth.  They drive me crazy.  And though I will admit that Catherine is a good actress, perhaps she is too good.  There is something about her that makes me think she is going to burst out crying any minute.  She's a bit too vulnerable.

But Knightly can sing and is believable as Gretta.

Catherine Keener plays Miriam, Dan's wife who had an affair that split them up.  Hailie Steinfeld plays his daughter who isn't taking the split very well and seems to be more mad at her Dad for his behavior than her mother for having the affair.  Steinfeld broke out for her performance in the Coen brothers' version of "True Grit," where she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, but despite roles in "Ender's Game" and "3 Days to Kill (movies I have reviewed)" she hasn't yet realized the success of Shailene Woodley who seems to be the current teen darling.  But she has upcoming roles in five new films including "Pitch Perfect 2," so she could be next.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's not "Once," but it's a lovely story of hope and redemption that is not cloying or obvious.

 

     

 
 
Getaway (2013)
 
 

Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke), a washed up race car driver, arrives home to find his wife kidnapped and now he must follow the orders of a mysterious voice if he wants her back alive.

When Brent finds his wife kidnapped, he receives a phone call from a mysterious man. Brent is told to steal a specific car, an armored Mustang Cobra rigged with cameras.  Turns out it belongs to a hoodie wearing unnamed girl played by Selena Gomez, who ends up unwillingly joining him on his quest.  The voice gives him various challenges such as driving the car through a park and running things over, all with time limits and the kinds of things the police don't take kindly to.  So there are many, many car chases.  And I mean many.  Turns out it's all an elaborate ruse to enable "The Voice" to rob a bank.

This all takes place in Bulgaria, which is odd, and it's never explained why an American race car driver is living there.

This is about as far as Ethan Hawke can get from the "Before" movies and it's kind of fun to see him in a thriller.  But car chase after car chase, crash after crash gets annoying after awhile not to mention far fetched that the car just keeps going like the Energizer Bunny, never needing gas or breaking down and the cops can't seem to ever stop him.  Gomez is a surprisingly engaging actress, though she isn't given much to do except react to all of those chases and crashes.

The most fun is trying to figure out who the person is behind the mysterious voice.  Turns out it's John Voight with a bad accent.

The film is derivative of other movies that feature car chases and heroes being forced to do stuff  such as "Drive" and "Speed." but it's not as good.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are into car chases, this is for you.  Otherwise, you can skip it.






Under the Skin (2014)



What appears to be an alien woman trolls for men in Glasgow, Scotland and lures them to their death...or something like that.

No one says a word until almost 15 minutes into this abstract film.  And that's probably a good thing because when people do start speaking, they speak with such a strong Glaswegian brogue, they are practically incomprehensible.

Scarlett Johansson plays an unnamed - is she an alien?  We think she is but nothing is ever explained.  She knows how to put on lipstick, drive a van, talk alluringly to men.  Is that what aliens do?

She trolls in her van picking up men and when they go with her, she takes them to her "lair," a dark space where they sink into a tar-like goo.  And they don't even get to have sex with her.

Scarlett has been engaging in fewer mainstream films and more indies like "Her," "Don Jon" and most recently "Chef."  And she played supporting roles in those.  Do we have another actress who feels she needs to prove her acting chops?  Or is she just bored with rom-coms?  But then she is currently filming another "Avengers" movie, so not sure what is going on with her.

I am just in awe of my fellow critics in that so many thought this was deep and symbolic and wonderful.  Sorry.  It's pretentious crap.  At least if the director Jonathan Glazer, whose big claim to fame was "Sexy Beast (2000), had used the plot of the novel from which this film is based, we would have had some understanding of what our alien girl was up to, but we were even denied that.

I liked "Sexy Beast," but here, I think, Mr. Glazer has gone spare, as they say in the UK.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Incomprehensible goo.


 
 
 
A kindly man finds a girl lying in the street, beaten, and he takes her home where she recounts her life of nymphomania.
Let me just preface this review by saying the word "nymphomaniac" is not a metaphor.  I was drawn to this film in the first place because, hey, the writer and director is Lars Von Trier, he of "Dogville" and "Melancholia."  He's an auteur.  I thought it was going to be arty.
I was wrong.  It wasn't a metaphor.
Yes, it's a bit arty-farty.  The arty part is the two minutes of black screen that starts the film, followed by another interminable amount of time showing dripping water.

The rest is hours of sex, penises and other body parts doing all kinds of things - up close. I haven't seen anything this graphic since "Behind the Green Door" and "The Devil and Miss Jones," and, which I hate to say, had more plot than this thing and I liked better.  And the many views of genitals just seemed to be there for shock value.  C'mon.

But there is actually a metaphor at work here - fly fishing - but don't ask me.  Is it about nymphomaniacs "luring" their prey?  Who knows?  There is also lots of talk about Christianity, Bach, Wagner and the Whore of Babylon.  I get the last one, but not sure about how the others fit in. 

A mainstream movie I can think of that even comes close to this is "Shame," and that was just about one guy's genitals (Michael Fassbender), which I have to say have to be seen to be believed.  But I digress.

I was guessing that this was probably some sort of feminist statement about women taking charge of their sexuality. I kept thinking there was hope.  I kept thinking, please don't let this end the way I think it's going to.  No, no, no.  But, yup, it did.  Moral of the story:  All men are scum.  Very cynical ending.
Stellan Skarsgard plays Seligman who finds Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lying in the street.
What were Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe and Shia LaBeof doing in this thing?  I think it has to do with a director getting a reputation as being an auteur and then actors want to work with him to prove they are SERIOUS actors.  But I think this is the film that sent Shia 'round the bend.  And Christian, work on that English accent.  (As an aside, one critic thought the erratic English accents were meant as some kind of statement.  Pulease).
Yes, folks there is enough, ahem, action here to warrant two movies - four hours worth - but it's action of a salacious nature.
After I watched Part I, you may wonder why I watched Part II.  I am wondering that same thing myself. 

I am as liberal as they come when it comes to sex and nudity in films, but this one pushes the limits.  I think I must have said "Oh my god" out loud about 100 times.

Some critics lump this in with Von Trier's "Melancholia" and call it his "Depression Trilogy."  That's a good one because after seeing this, I was depressed.  Depressed I had wasted four hours of my life.

This goes in my "Worst Films of 2013" file.

Rosy the Reviewer says...

 
 

***Book of the Week***
 
 
Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir by Toni Braxton (2014)
 
 
 
An inspiring story of a tumultuous life by singer Braxton, whose song "Unbreak My Heart" sold millions and who currently stars in the TV show "Braxton Family Values."

Braxton grew up in an ultra-religious family and was in a singing group with her sisters.  The oldest of the siblings, her mother always told her to look after her sisters and never leave them behind. But when the opportunity arose for her to sign with a record label without her sisters, she had to make a decision and when she decided to pursue a solo career and leave her sisters behind, it haunted her all of her life.

Despite Braxton's singing success, her life has not been an easy one: two bankruptcies, unsuccessful personal relationships, a son with autism and a diagnosis of lupus. 

She currently stars with her sisters in the reality TV show "Braxton Family Values," so she is back with her sisters again.  Her life has come full-circle.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a candid memoir from a singing superstar.


***Restaurant of the Week***
 
 
 



Set in the former space where Le Gourmand and Sambar once served customers, this bistro and bar is light, cheery and welcoming.  On a lovely summer day, the patio would be my choice but get there early if you want to sit out there.  Otherwise, there is seating under the windows that look out on it.

The menu is small and that is just the way I like it.  For one thing, when confronted by a huge menu, I can never decide what to order and invariably order the wrong thing.  When the menu is small, I know that each item will be fresh and well made and it makes ordering so much easier.

There are three or four items under each heading:  Snacks, Vegetable, Seafood, Meat and Desserts. 

We tried the bread and butter listed under Snacks and it was a large hunk of hot buttered bread.  Add to that a dish of Lemongrass Asparagus, the seafood of the day (Skate) and the grass fed local beef to share and you have a lovely tapas meal.  You can order a small or large plate.  We ordered a small plate of each which was plenty of food for the two of us.

We also ordered the Dungeness crab trifle which was amazing.  It has layers of gelée, custard, brioche and ginger beer with plenty of cracked crab with Brussels sprouts leaves on top.  Yum.

The name  refers to a proper pour: When full, it's a “brimmer,” and at the end, only a “heeltap” is left.

 Rosy the Reviewer says...This restaurant is just "brimming" with appeal and darn good food.
 

That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!
 
See you Tuesday for
"Manners, What Happened?"
 
 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.


Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 
If I reviewed a movie, you can now find my reviews there too.
Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

 



2 comments :

  1. After life calms down let's go to Brimmer and Heeltap together...Scott would hate it but I would LOVE to try it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Done. It's really good. Thanks for posting. It came through just fine.

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