Friday, July 11, 2014

Where Were You in the 1990's? And The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Edge of Tomorrow" and DVDs "Somm," "The Well-Digger's Daughter," "Reasonable Doubt" and "As Cool as I Am" and the book "Love, Nina," letters home from a nanny living in London.]

But First

I just watched a wonderful documentary series:  The 90's: The Last Great Decade?" on the National Geographic channel.  If it plays again, I recommend it.  It's a great trip down history's memory lane.

 


And it got me to thinking.

First, was the 1990's the last great decade?


1990 - Iraq invades Kuwait and the World Wide Web is created

1991 - The (first) Gulf War - Operation Desert Storm - begins and Jeffrey Dahmer is arrested.  Nirvana's "Nevermind" is released.

1992 - Bush and Yeltsin officially declare The Cold War over and Hurricane Andrew hits South Florida.  Reality TV begins with "Real World."

1993 - The World Trade Center is bombed and fire kills 72 Branch Davidians in a stand-off with Federal Agents

1994 - Thousands killed in Rwanda massacre and O.J. Simpson arrested for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman

1995 - Oklahoma City Federal building is bombed and O.J. Simpson is found not guilty.

1996 - The FBI arrests the Unibomber and Prince Charles and Princess Diana agree to a divorce

1997 - One word:  Diana 

1998 - Europe agrees on the Euro as their single currency and President Clinton denies affair with Monica Lewinsky 

1999 - War erupts in Kosovo and two students kill 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves at Colombine High School in Littleton, CO.  Everyone fears Y2K. 

Academy Awards for Best Picture were

Dances with Wolves (1990)
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Unforgiven (1992)
Schindler's List (1993)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Braveheart (1995)
The English Patient (1996)
Titanic (1997)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
American Beauty (1999)

(The sign of a good film is that it stands the test of time.  I think these films do).

That was what was going on in the 90's in the great big world.

But as I said in my post last week "The Sturm and Drang of Writing a Blog," writing this blog makes me remember. 

So while all of that was going on in the big wide world and history was being made, what history was being made in my own little world?


I was living with my husband, son, and daughter in the Monterey Bay Area in California.



1990                  Our son turned 10



1991                  My father died



1992                Hubby was laid off; fortunately the tech world was
                        in full swing and he was able to                       
                        get another job.  But when it happens 
                        unexpectedly, it is very scary.

1993               A rare visit from my sister and my mother who both
                        live back East.  One of the last times I saw my mother
                        before we lost her to dementia brought on by a stroke. 
                        Three generations of a family together.

 

1994                  We bought our first house by the skin of our teeth




1995                  Our daughter turned 10. 
 
                         
                          It also became apparent that my child-bearing days
                          were over which helped to explain why I had been such
                          a bitch for the last five years.




1996                 We celebrated Hubby's parents' 50th Wedding
                         Anniversary at our home and Hubby's whole family
                         came together, except his sister who died young in the
                         1980's.

                    


 





 


1997                 Hubby's parents moved from Texas to be near us so we
                         could look after them and six weeks later Hubby's
                         mother died






1998                 Our son graduated from high school and left home for
                         college.

                         
                         Wait a minute! 
                         
                         Wasn't he just 10 not too long ago?

 


1999                  My mother died



 


In the scheme of things it's just ten short years.

But a lot can happen in a decade.

So was the 1990's the last great decade?

In the big world, maybe.

In my little world, I wouldn't say so.

But every decade has it's ups and downs.

It's called life.
 


Now on to

The Week in Reviews



***In Theatres Now***
 


Edge of Tomorrow 
 
 
 
An officer in a futuristic war finds himself reliving the day of his death over and over, but each time he relives that day he learns more and more about how to save himself and the world the next time.

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), an Army Public Relations Officer, shows up in London thinking he is going to be doing some public relations around recruiting only to discover he is being sent to the front lines of a war against invading aliens called the Mimics. It is apparent he is a coward.  He has not been trained to fight and tries to get out of it by threatening the General only to find himself waking up handcuffed, branded a traitor and stripped of his rank.

On the battlefield, he is killed by a Mimic that has the power to turn back time if its blood just happens to seep all over you.  Well it does and now our hero wakes up to find himself reliving that day over and over. As Cage tries to figure out what is going on, he teams up with Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) who it turns out also had this happen to her, but when she got a blood transfusion, she lost the power. As Cage dies and is resurrected over and over again, his skill as a soldier grows and he learns more and more how to save himself and the world.

I know, I know, it goes on and on and is all very, very far-fetched with many holes in the plot, but if you can overlook them, this film is action-packed, with great special effects and a sense of humor. 
 
  
Based on a Japanese novel "All You Need is Kill" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

I know there are Tom Cruise haters out there, but I have always been a fan.  He had me at "Taps." Besides that 1000 watt smile, he is a great action hero who does all of his own stunts and he has a sense of humor about himself.

I am glad Emily Blunt has made the transition from "The Devil Wears Prada" to more serious roles, but I would love to have been in the room when they were deciding who should play Rita. Seems like an odd choice for an action hero, though.
 
With his turns in the Mission Impossible franchise and other action films, that has become Tom's main genre, which he is good at, but I miss him in the romantic comedies and straight dramas.

 
Rosy the Reviewer says..."Groundhog Day" with aliens and lots of action.   Just what we have come to expect of summer entertainment. See it in 3-D if you can.



***DVDS***

You Might Have Missed

And Some You Should Be Glad You Did

(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)

 

 

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 with fewer than 200 new members admitted  since 1969.

This is like learning "The Knowledge" for London cabbies or passing the bar in California on your first try - almost impossible.  But the four fellows we follow as they take the journey to become Masters are determined, if almost OCD about it.

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

The film counts down the final weeks before each has to take the test. 
They must memorize the most esoteric facts about wine - what are the wine regions of Croatia?  What is mutage?  And they have to know about spirits as well as the niceties of good service.  They obsess over their flash cards and blind tasting wine which they must describe in detail and identify - not just the wine itself but the year it was made.  It's hilarious to hear them rattle off the descriptions using such imagery as the wine tasting like a combination of tennis balls and cigar smoke.  Supposedly Sauvignon Blanc smells like cat pee so the code word for that is "blackcurrent bud."  Ew, that's one of my favorite grapes. What I found interesting was the fact that none of the descriptions seemed to match each other.  Seems much more of an art than a science in that regard.

Personally, enjoyed seeing Fred Dame helping the candidates.  He was the first American to pass all three parts of the exam in one year and was the Cellar Master at The Sardine Factory Restaurant in Monterey, CA, my old neck of the woods.  Another local reference was the RN74 restaurant, where I have dined here in Seattle, though the one featured was the San Francisco version.

My only complaint would be the lack of women featured, because there are women who have passed this exam, but all in all, an engrossing documentary.

 Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, it's pompous but it's also a wine lover's feast, or should I say, bacchanal?  Loved it.

 
 
 
 
A young girl in pre-war France is banished from her home by her proud father when she becomes pregnant.
 
Our heroine, Patricia (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) is a saintly and sheltered daughter until she meets Jacques (Nicolas Duvauchelle), the handsome, rich son of the local shopkeeper.  Our parents were right.  It only takes once.  The poor girl only had a one off and gets pregnant while her new boyfriend gets sent to fight.  Needless to say, his parents are not thrilled with their golden boy hooking up with a poor girl so the mother waylays a letter and our poor Patricia thinks that Jacques doesn't care for her.  Her father, played by veteran French actor Daniel Auteuil, who also adapted the screenplay from a novel by Marcel Pagnol and directed, sends her to his sister's to have the baby and as punishment for her transgression.

Berges-Frisbey is a gorgeous, sensitive actress who starred in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" in 2011.
 
 Rosy the Reviewer says...The film felt a bit old fashioned in its story and presentation, but if you liked "Jean de Florette" and "Manon of the Spring" (also novels by Marcel Pagnol), you will like this film.
 
 
 
 
 
A young district attorney is involved in a hit and run and tries to cover up his crime until another man is arrested for it and charged with murder.  Our "hero" is a bit of a slime ball but guilt ensues.

D.A. Mitch Brockden (Dominic Cooper) is out drinking with his buddies and plans to take a taxi home, but when he sees some seedy types hanging around his car, he decides to take his chances.  Bad idea.  A guy runs out in front of him and he hits him.  Panicked, he calls 911 but leaves the guy in the road.  The next day he discovers that another man has been charged with the crime so feeling guilty, he takes the case and purposefully loses to the guy gets off.  Another bad idea.  The other guy is a bad, bad man.

When the other guy is Samuel L. Jackson looking like he does on the movie poster, you know our "hero" is in BIG trouble.  No one does menacing like Samuel.  Did you see him in "Lakeview Terrace," "Old Boy" and "Meeting Evil?"   He's got a lock on it and steals the show here.  And he seems like such a nice guy on talk shows.
 
This film wants to be a thriller but is just one of those excruciating films where the protagonist makes one bad decision after another.  As you are watching, you shout at the screen - Noooo - bad decision.  Don't do that!

Cooper was wonderful in this year's miniseries "Fleming," about writer Ian Fleming and his creation of James Bond.  Unfortunately, this film let him down.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...this movie is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of being terrible.



As Cool As I Am (2013)

 
 
A coming of age tale about a teen-aged girl who is more mature than her parents. 
 
What kids get up to when their parents aren't looking.  And what the parents get up to when they aren't thinking about their kids.
 
Is it me, but is there a plethora of teen movies going on?  We've got the wildly popular "The Fault in our Stars," "The Spectacular Now," and "Divergent" and Shailene Woodley seems to have a lock on starring in that genre.
 
Sarah Bolger (most recently as Princesss Aurora in TV's "Once Upon a Time") plays Lucy Diamond, a 16-year-old tomboy who is too smart for her own good.  She aspires to be a chef and is obsessed with Mario Batali's cooking show.  Mario figures so prominently, I checked to see if he was one of the backers.  He even appears as an apparition on an oven door toward the end of the film as if leading Lucy to her destiny.  There was a bit of corn in that.
 
Lucy and long-time friend Kenny (they've known each since they were six) played by Thomas Mann finally hook up (yes, in that way).  They are the school nerds and they don't care because they have each other.  Lucy's parents "had to get married" as teens and it becomes obvious as the film progresses that they have grown apart.  The Dad (James Marsden, who played Kennedy in Lee Daniels' "The Butler" and Jack Lime in "Anchorman 2") is a lumberjack gone for months at a time and her mother (Claire Danes) is trying to keep her job a secret because her husband is "old school," and doesn't want his wife to work.  A recipe for disaster.  When Kenny has to move away, Lucy falls into a fast crowd to her detriment.  As she finds her way, her parents also make some big decisions.
 
The film leaves much to the imagination as it brings up issues of rape, AIDS, teen sex, drinking, and infidelity and never really resolves any of them.  But life is messy and many things never do get resolution.
 
This is Bolger's first big role and I say, move over Shailene Woodley.  There is a new Teen Movie Queen in town!  Both Mann and Bolger are appealing actors and have several projects in post and pre-production so gladly we will be seeing more of them.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...this film doesn't have a lot new to say about the teenage condition, but see it for Bolger.  She is wonderful.
 


***Book of the Week***
 

 
 
Love Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe (2014)
 
 
It's 1982 and a young girl from the north of England lands a job as a nanny in London and writes letters home to her sister.

Twenty-year-old Nina Stibbe is nanny to two mature boys beyond their years (the sons of film director Stephen Frears - "My Beautiful Laundrette,"  "The Queen" and most recently "Philomena") and a cat no one likes.  It's a single mother household, but a literary one where  playwright Alan Bennett drops in frequently as well as other literary and arty types.  There is much talk of art and culture around the dinner table as well as cursing and other inappropriate talk, all recorded by Ms. Stibbe for her sister, Victoria's, amusement.

The mother is broad-minded and Nina learns much during her stint. Nina ends up going to college and meeting her husband.

The strength of this collection of letters is Stibbe's ability to recreate the conversations and her sense of humor.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like reading books of letters and diaries, you might like this.  Reminiscent of "84 Charing Cross Road."  However, I found it a bit tedious, despite my rampant Anglophilia.
 
 
 
Thanks for reading!



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