Friday, December 26, 2014

"Wild" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Wild" plus DVDs "Magic in the Moonlight" and "The Skeleton Twins" and Mick Fleetwood's memoir.  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project"]


Movie version of Cheryl Strayed's bestselling memoir about her 1100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail on her own.
After the end of her marriage and the death of her beloved mother, Cheryl begins a downward spiral of grief, filled with promiscuity and heroin.  At her bottom, she decides the only way to heal herself is to make this trek.

The movie with screenplay by the novelist Nick Hornby tells Cheryl's story in a series of flashbacks as she hikes the trail.  Slowly we learn she ruined her marriage by cheating on her husband and doing heroin; her mother Bobbi's death destroyed her; she is estranged from her brother; and she is one tough cookie.
A powerful book does not necessarily a powerful film make, but that doesn't mean this is not a good film.  It is.  I make a point of not comparing books and the film versions.  Books and films are different art forms.  But when a book affects people as strongly as this book has, and it did me, one expects the same feeling when it's over and it just wasn't there. 
Reese Witherspoon does Cheryl proud and sheds her goody goody "America's Sweetheart" image with her nude and sex scenes and the liberal use of  the "F" word and the "MF" word.  She proves herself to deserve her Oscar as June Carter in "Walk the Line," and she will most definitely be rewarded with another nomination here.

Laura Dern plays Cheryl's free-spirited mother who endured a brutal marriage and bettered herself, only to die at 45.  Though Dern and Witherspoon are close in age, too close for Dern to be Witherspoon's mother, their chemistry together is believable.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a powerful performance by Witherspoon that is not to be missed.  And read the book!

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

Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), whose alter ego is magician Wei Ling Soo, is called to country estate in the south of France to debunk, Sophie (Emma Stone) a suspicious medium.

Stanley's magician friend, Howard, enlists Stanley to accompany him to a country estate in the south of France to investigate a young American spiritualist who is staying with a wealthy woman and her son.  The son is in love with the girl and he thinks she could be a fraud and a gold digger. Stanley agrees and since he is not recognizable as Wei Ling, poses as Stanley Taplinger, a businessman who unknown to Sophie is out to unmask her as a fraud.  He is scornful of her gifts, but during a séance, she reveals details about people only they would know.  Slowly but surely she weaves a web of magic around Stanley that he can't resist.  And the gorgeous French countryside as a backdrop doesn't hurt either.

Woody Allen wrote and directed this romantic comedy set in the 1920's which now forms a trilogy of his "European films," the others being "Midnight in Paris (2011)" and "To Rome with Love (2012)." 

He once again explores God, death and the meaning of life as he has done in so many of his films but in a most charming way.

"Why would God have gone to all of this trouble if it was all for nothing?"

Allen has had female muses ever since he directed Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall."  She was followed by Mia Farrow, Mariel Hemingway, Scarlett Johansson and now Emma Stone seems to have stolen his heart.

Colin Firth is Woody's alter ego, though here as an English gent, trying to unmask the medium as a fraud and he exhibits many of Woody's neuroses as he wrestles with the rational vs. the emotional.  Firth's character is arrogant and absolutely positive there is no life after death.

"Happiness is not a natural human condition."

He says, "I'm a rational man in a rational world.  Any other way is madness."

But in the end, he realizes as Woody seems to be saying in this charming comedy, "The world may be without purpose, but it's not without some kind of magic."

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like "Downton Abbey" or want to see Colin Firth do his "Mr. Darcy thing," you will enjoy this.

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Estranged twins reunite after the attempted suicide of the brother.

Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader, SNL alums, play twin brother and sister, Milo and Maggie Dean, who have become estranged.  Maggie is called to her brother's bedside after his attempted suicide.  Coincidently, when the phone call came in, Maggie was going to do the same. 

When Milo attempts suicide, he is living in LA and nursing a broken heart. Maggie arrives from their hometown in upstate New York and takes Milo back to her house where she lives with her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson) in what appears on the surface to be a happy marriage.  The brother and sister have not spoken to each other for ten years.  

But all is not as it seems.  There is disappointment, broken hearts and all kinds of secrets.

Milo gets in touch with his first love, an older teacher (Ty Burrell) who seduced him when he was 15.  Maggie's husband, Lance, wants children but Maggie is secretly taking birth control pills and sleeping with other men.

And believe it or not, folks, this is a comedy!

I have already given Kirstin Wiig props for her performance in "Hateship Loveship," but Bill Hader is the revelation here.  There are few signs of his over the top characters on SNL, such as Stefon.  His performance is surprisingly subtle and poignant. Together, the two of them make a great team.

There are some cute, silly scenes such as when they both get high on laughing gas in the dentist's office (Maggie is a dental hygienist) and when during a fight, Milo puts on the Jefferson Starship song "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now."  He starts to lip synch and coaxes her to join.  She resists but comes in just as Grace Slick does. You had to be there, but trust me.

I didn't get why the hospital would call Maggie when Milo was admitted.  After all the mother was still in the picture but that's a small thing.

This film is all about trying to mend broken hearts by the mending of broken relationships.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet brother and sister love story - and I mean that in the best possible way.

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

 292 to go!

On Bora Bora, a maiden is deemed "The Chosen Maid," which means no one can even look upon her let alone have her as a girlfriend.  Her boyfriend doesn't buy it and off they go. Since death is the sentence for disobeying the edict, things don't look good for our young lovers.

Directed by F.W Murnau, considered one of the greatest of all silent film directors, the film was shot entirely in the South Seas in 1929 using a nonprofessional cast.  This was Murnau's last film.  He was killed in a car accident one week before "Tabu" was to open.  The world would never get to see how he might have done with "talkies."
Why it's a Must See: "However dated some of Tabu's ethnographic idealism may seem today, the film's breathtaking beauty and artistry make it indispensable viewing, and the exquisite tragic ending -- conceived musically and rhythmically as a gradually decelerating diminuendo -- is one of the pinnacles of silent cinema."

Rosy the Reviewer says...silent films are difficult to process in this crazy world we live in, but this one is a beautiful example and worth seeing.

***Book of the Week***

Play On: Now, Then, and Fleetwood Mac by Mick Fleetwood (2014)

The "Fleetwood" in the rock band Fleetwood Mac, Mick Fleetwood shares his story.

Fleetwood talks about his happy family life growing up and his difficulties in school.  Discovering drumming gave him something to work toward and once he decided that's what he could do, he didn't consider anything else.  He was "discovered" while living with his sister in London and practicing his drums in her garage.  From that time he was off and running.

Fleetwood Mac went through several permutations before it became the band of "Rumours."  Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer were early driving forces but both went off the rails into cults and mental illness.  When Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Chris McVie (then Chris Perfect) joined Fleetwood and John McVie, the band had its greatest success.

All of the band member hook-ups are described - Stevie and Lindsay, then Stevie and Mick, John and Chris and lots and lots of cocaine.

Mick is self-deprecating to a certain extent.  He doesn't give himself too much credit for his drumming and seems to take responsibility for what went wrong with his three marriages, but he still comes off as kind of an ass.  I mean, c'mon.  If you admit your first marriage ended because you didn't communicate with your wife and put your work first, why are you now ending marriage number three for the same reason?

Rosy the Reviewer says...a candid rock and roll memoir that is hard to put down.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"My New Year's UN-Resolutions"

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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."

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Find the page for the movie you are interested in, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews" and click. Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. 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."

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