Friday, July 25, 2014

The Best and Worst Films and DVDs of 2014 - So Far and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Sex Tape" and DVDs "Face of Love," $ellebrity," "Delivery Man" and "I Give It A Year" as well as Molly Wizenberg's new book "Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage."]

But First


Since 2014 is already more than half over, I thought I would recap some of my reviews and weigh in on the Best and Worst in new movies and new DVD releases this year (all films are in theatres now or available on DVD or soon to be) and give you some great movie watching ideas for you weekend.

The Best Movies and DVDS of 2014...So Far



The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)


Writer/director Wes Anderson ("The Royal Tanenbaums," "Rushmore" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" ) has gathered together a stellar cast to tell the story of Gustave H. renowned concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel and his Lobby Boy, Zero.

He pulls out all the stops in this beautifully crafted, stylish and hilarious comedy, starring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe, Jeff Goldbloom, Harvey Keitel, Owen Wilson, Tom Wilkinson, and Bob Balaban.  It has all of the elements of a French Farce and you have never seen a wackier Ralph Fiennes.

See my full review here




Somm (2012)






 
 
Four sommeliers attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam to become a part of the Court of Master Sommeliers, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. 
 
The film counts down the final weeks before each has to take the test. 
They must memorize the most esoteric facts about wine.

We have Ian, Dustin, Brian and DLynn.  Who will pass? 

The most fun is the blind wine tasting they do where they describe a glass of wine thusly:  Starbright, slight acid with a hint of tennis ball and cat pee.  Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma 1999.

I made that up but it's close.

A wine lover's dream.



See my full review here






 

The Lunchbox (2013)


A lonely wife in Mumbai sends her husband his lunchbox, but it is delivered to a man on the verge of retirement by mistake.  They begin a correspondence via the lunchbox and share confessions about dreams, regrets and unhappiness.  Will the older man in the later part of his life and the young, unhappy housewife fall in love and live happily ever after?

This is an utterly charming film about two lonely people who bond over food and mutual loneliness.
See my full review here





Chef (2014)



Miami-born chef Carl Casper (John Favreau) is a chef in an LA restaurant who wants to create his own menu but the owner (Dustin Hoffman) forces him to keep doing the same old thing.  When he is raked over the coals by a critic (Oliver Platt), Chef Casper reacts on Twitter, followed by a public meltdown in the restaurant, which is, of course, recorded and goes viral on the Internet.  He finds himself out of a job, so he moves to Miami with his ex-wife (Sophia Vergara) and opens a food truck.

A sweet, charming film food lovers and everyone else will enjoy.
 
See my full review here




Gloria (2013)



Paulina Garcia plays Gloria and she is a wonder to behold.   She is a nice, but ordinary looking middle-aged woman who wears glasses, but she is mesmerizing in her portrayal of a lonely woman who loves life and wants to live it fully. You will fall in love with Gloria.

See my full review here





Jersey Boys (2014)


The film version of the Broadway hit show of the same name.

If you loved the Broadway musical, will you love this film.  If you didn't see the play version, you will like this film. It stands on its own as a great biopic.
 



 
Rosy the Reviewer says...An utterly stunning and beautifully photographed documentary on the Controversial Russian performance art band, Pussy Riot, that protested against Putin and Russia's anti-feminist policies and got two years in Siberia.

See my full review here


The Worst Movies and DVDS of 2014...So Far



Mom's Night Out (2014)


Allyson (Sarah Drew), a harried young mother who can't handle the stresses of motherhood and  her own perfectionism, arranges a night out with her girlfriends to "unplug" and unwind.
 
The women plan a nice dinner out and leave the kids with the husbands (Sean Astin and Robert Amaya).  In the course of the evening, there is no dinner reservation, a baby goes missing, a parakeet gets sat upon and a tattooed biker named Bones (Trace Atkins) gives our heroine the message she needed to hear.  God doesn't expect her to be perfect.  And her husband confirms the importance of her role as a mother.

 Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 
Even if you have been longing for a Christian-themed movie, you don't want to waste your time.  It's not funny and it's not even uplifting.


See my full review here




Pompeii (2014)


A slave turned gladiator finds himself fighting for his life not only against other gladiators but a volcano. 

What happens in this film defies plausibility so you will be fighting to get through it.

See my full review here




Nymphomanic Vol. 1 (2013) and Vol. II (2013)


Who knew nymphomania could be so boring?


See my full review here




Enemy (2013)


Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a history teacher living a bland and boring life.  One night he watches a film and spots an extra who is his exact look alike.  He becomes obsessed with finding this doppelganger.  He eventually finds him - Anthony St. Claire (also played by Gyllenhaal), and each man couldn't be more different.  It starts out OK and then falls apart into all kinds of wacky images of spiders and fetishes.

The title sequence includes the quote: "Chaos is merely order yet deciphered."

After seeing this film, you will say, "That's for damn sure."  This was definitely chaos that you won't decipher ever.

See my full review here





Reasonable Doubt (2014)


A young district attorney played by Dominic Cooper is involved in a hit and run and tries to cover up his crime until another man (Samuel L. Jackson) is arrested for it and charged with murder.  Our "hero" is a bit of a slime ball but guilt ensues.

This movie is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of being terrible.

See my full review here



Under the Skin (2013)

 
What appears to be an alien woman (Scarlett Johansson) trolls for men in Glasgow, Scotland and lures them to their death in a thick black goo. 
 
That's how I would describe this film - incomprehensible thick black goo.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What do you think of my Bests and Worsts?
 
What are yours?
 
 
 
 

Now on to
The Week in Reviews


 


***In Theatres Now***
 
 
 
 
A married couple decide to make a sex tape to spice up their lagging sex life, but discover it has somehow gotten into "The Cloud," for all of their friends and family to see.

Annie and Jay meet in college and have sex every which way.  He gets an erection when she is just in the vicinity.  But once they are married and have two kids, they go the way of most couples:  less sex.  They finally get a night to themselves and discover it's not that easy to just resume their hot sex so they decide to make a sex tape and act out every position in "The Joy of Sex."  That right there is strange. 

Does anyone really talk about "The Joy of Sex" anymore?  That was from the 70's.  I guess it gave them some supposedly funny dialogue on how hairy people were then, and I am not talking about the hair on their heads, faces, backs or chest.

They have a great night and the next morning, Annie tells Jay to delete the "tape" from his IPad.  Unfortunately, somehow the tape gets synched onto some IPads that have been given away, including to the mail man, and the tape now resides on "the cloud," so they must get those IPads back!

No one understands what "the cloud" is and this film is capitalizing on that big time, because how their sex tape gets out there into the world doesn't make much sense, but that's the least of this film's worries.

The quest is even more important as Annie is trying to sell her "Mommy" blog to a conservative company and doesn't want to do anything to mess that up and wouldn't you know, the head of the company that wants to buy her blog also has one of those IPads.
Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel make a cute couple and this story of what happens after you have kids starts out well but slides into the abyss of slapstick.

I love Cameron Diaz but she is having a hard time finding a vehicle that highlights her strengths.  In fact, she has been in some clunkers lately.  "The Other Woman" was also not a success.  Here is what I said about that.

Rob Lowe plays the head of the company that wants to buy Annie's blog.  Lowe has worked to get out of the "pretty boy" mold to play more eccentric characters such as his turn in "Behind the Candelabra."  Here he is again as a seemingly conservative guy who just likes to snort a bit of cocaine and listen to Slayer when his wife and kids are away.  He's the best thing about this movie.
You know you are in trouble when Jack Black delivers the moral of the story.
 Rosy the Reviewer says...Cute premise but no cigar.


***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
 
Face of Love (2013)
 


A widow falls in love with a man who looks exactly like her dead husband.

Annette Benning plays Nikki, who found her husband of 30 years drowned on a Mexican beach.  She grieves for five years until she meets, Tom, an art teacher and a dead ringer for her dead husband (Ed Harris plays both parts).

Naturally, Nikki never tells Tom he looks just like her dead husband.  That is the whole crux of this film.  She is using Tom to relive her marriage and in so doing, must make a choice.  As for Tom, his love for Nikki inspires him to paint again.  She cloisters herself with Tom, not wanting her daughter, Summer to see him or her neighbor, Roger (Robin Williams), because that would blow her cover.  The basic question that is explored here is:  Does Nikki really love Tom or is she reliving her lost marriage?  And what is going to happen when Tom finds out he looks like her husband? You are never quite sure if Nikki is on the verge or madness or not or if Tom really does mirror her dead husband.

There is a little bit of Hitchcock here with references to his "Vertigo."  But what's with these movies lately about people and their lookalikes?  (See my review of "Enemy" above).

I give Benning credit for not going the plastic surgery route.  Her age is there for all to see and it's refreshing.  Ed Harris, on the other hand, is too damn skinny.  And why Robin Williams took this role, I don't know.  He doesn't have much to do except moon over Nikki, who has no interest in him romantically.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you crave plots that make sense, this isn't for you, but if you enjoy wonderful acting moments, you will like this film. There is chemistry between Benning and Harris and many touching moments.




 
$ellebrity (2012)
 

Celebrity photographer Kevin Mazur draws the line between authorized photographers and the cult of paparazzi.
 
Mazur stars in and directs this documentary about the cult of celebrity and our obsession with celebrity gossip.  That, he says, is what drives rogue photographers to stalk celebrities in order to get that one BIG picture that will set them up for the year.  Mazur, known for his red carpet photos, strives to distance himself from the stalker types.  He seems to be saying here that he is authorized and legitimate, whereas those "other guys" are just stalkers, which I guess he is since he has called upon Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez (and Marc Anthony - they were together then), Sheryl Crow and others to comment and lament about the good old days before TMZ and those "They're Just Like Us" pictures.  He also goes on to blame the consumer for reading those magazines in which those pictures appear.  And yet he made this movie. I don't particularly like watching a film that blames me for watching it.
 
Believe it or not, People Magazine is portrayed as the good guy compared to "those others."
 
There is some history thrown in such as where the name "paparazzi" came from and the years that "Confidential" ruled the celebrity gossip roost.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you already feel guilty reading celebrity gossip mags, this will make you feel worse.  It's all YOUR fault!  Now let me get back to my "Star Magazine!"
 
 

Delivery Man (2013)

 



A man who donated sperm 20 years ago discovers that his donations resulted in over 500 babies, 142 of them who now want to meet their biological father.

David (Vince Vaughn) can't seem to get much going in his life.  Basically he is a screw up.  He has a $100,000 loan shark debt hanging over his head and his girlfriend, despite being pregnant, has just about had it with him. Twenty years ago he donated sperm under the name "Starbuck" to make a little cash and now he discovers that his sperm was so desirable that it was used to make 533 babies and 142 of them now want to meet him.

(The name "Starbuck" is not to be confused with the coffee.  It's the name of a famous Canadian bull whose sperm was so prized it was worth millions and he fathered over 200,000.  Since the bull was Canadian, our hero's choice of name as a sperm donor probably made more sense in the Canadian film).

David decides that checking up on his "kids" would give him some purpose so he seeks some of them out anonymously and ends up having a positive effect on their lives.

This is almost an exact remake of the French-Canadian film "Starbuck," which makes you wonder why it needed to be remade.  But since it was in French and many Americans can't deal with subtitles, I guess that explains it.

Ken Scott, the same writer/director, who helmed the French-Canadian film is behind this American version and having seen "Starbuck," a couple of years ago, it looks to be the exact same film.

Vince Vaughn has a warm, endearing quality about him and his incompetent lawyer friend, Brett, played by Chris Pratt is the comic relief, but overall, the film didn't work very well.

Rosy the Reviewer says...see "Starbuck."  It works where this one doesn't.  And yes, you can do the subtitles.  Yes, you can!

 
 
 

 

Nat and Josh fall madly in love and quickly get married with most of their friends skeptical about it lasting.

Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne) marry after only seven months of courtship.  At their wedding, Nat's sister (Minnie Driver, who doesn't seem to be getting many big roles these days) whispers to her husband "I give it a year," hence the crux of this British romantic comedy that isn't really very romantic nor is it very funny.  But everyone ends up with who they are supposed to be with, so I guess that's the romantic part.

Sure enough, nine months later, the couple is in counseling with a counselor who could care less (Olivia Coleman in a comic role, a far-cry from her role in the wonderful "Broadchurch").

I had high hopes for this film.  I love British films and British romantic comedies in particular, but this is no "Four Weddings and a Funeral" or "Notting Hill."  Where is Hugh Grant when you need him?

Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais' sidekick, is the funniest thing in this film but he's not enough to save it from itself.  Anna Faris plays, Chloe, Josh's ex-girlfriend, and wears a god awful brown wig that makes her look quite unattractive, but she brings some stability to the film.  There are assorted other characters, such as Simon Baker, who comes to Nat for some help rebranding his cleaning supplies company.

The first half of the film is promising but then it just deteriorates into silliness.

Brought to you by Writer-Director Dan Mazer, who brought us Borat (although this is not as funny), so that should give you an idea of the kind of humor you are going to encounter here.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you want to give it its 97 minutes and you like low-brow, cynical humor, then go for it. Otherwise, save yourself the trouble. It's not that funny.

 


***Book of the Week***
 
Molly Wizenberg is a Seattle based food writer whose blog "Orangette" is wildly popular.
I read her first book, "A Homemade Life (2010)," which talks about growing up in Oklahoma City, her happy times making food with her Mom and Dad and meeting her husband. She combines memoir with recipes (her father's potato salad is the best I have ever made) in a conversational, confessional and intimate style of writing, which I love.
This second book is no exception. 
In her first book she meets and falls in love with her husband, Brandon.  In this one, they open a restaurant together, something Molly never thought she would ever do.  She takes us through this difficult process step-by-step (with recipes!) - the emotional issues that cropped up for her husband and her and the stress it put on the marriage.
When she published her first book, her editor asked about the restaurant and what it would be like to now make cooking a public thing after it having been a part of her private life.  Her blog and first book talked about cooking at home.  Now she was cooking for paying customers.  It was a journey she needed to take.
She quotes from Jack Kerouac's journal: "You have to believe in life before you can accomplish anything.  That is why dour, regular-houred, rational souled State Department diplomats have done nothing for mankind.  Why live if not for excellence?"
Wizenberg was by her own admission a perfectionist, always striving for excellence and someone who liked to make plans and have things work the way they were supposed to.  The unpredictability of the restaurant experience tested her beliefs and her marriage, but despite the differences in her husband and herself, they were both striving for that excellence together.
Seattle folks will recognize Delancey as the popular pizza place in Ballard.  Lines form at 5pm when it opens. But Molly and her husband didn't know that it would be a success when they decided to open a pizza restaurant. But it is.  I have dined there and loved the thin crust pizza.  Now that I have read her book and know what she and her husband Brandon went through to perfect their recipes, I will enjoy it even more. Can't wait to go back.
Molly also mentions other local haunts that Seattlites will recognize, such as Boat Street Café (one of celebrity chef Renee Erickson's restaurants - she was one of the local chefs featured on Top Chef Seattle) and Café Lago, both of whose staff were instrumental in helping them get their restaurant off the ground. 
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a fan of Orangette or loved "A Homemade Life," you will enjoy this as well.  And if you are a foodie and not already a fan of Molly Wizenberg, you will be!

That's it for this week!
See you Tuesday for
"How Not To Look Like a Tourist in Paris
or Anywhere Else"
 Thanks for Reading!
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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). 

Here is a quick link to get to all of them.  Choose the film you are interested in and then scroll down the list of reviewers to find "Rosy the Reviewer."


Otherwise, if you want to find me on IMDB directly (if I reviewed a movie), go to IMDB, search for the movie you are interested in, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."
 
On your mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews."
 
 
(Note:  I had some formatting issues with this post.  If you want to comment, you will need to scroll WAY down through a long blank space to find the comment spot - but it's worth it!  I want to hear from you!)
 























































 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


















 
 

 




 

 


 



 

 







 
 
 

 
 

 

 



 



 



 



 

 








 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 









 

 
 
 
 







 
 
 

 
 
 

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